The following article originally appeared in the Hornsey Journal:
A council magazine has been scolded by a spending watchdog for flogging “party political views” at the expense of taxpayers.
Auditors Grant Thornton has now ordered Labour run Haringey Council to change the wording it uses in Haringey People - a magazine sent to residents six times a year - to stop confusing fact with its political stance.
The action by the district auditor comes as the opposing Liberal Democrats persist with their campaign against the publication, which sets residents back almost £145,000 a year.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Richard Wilson said: “I was very concerned that the council continued to use this magazine to peddle political points at residents’ expense and I asked that officials investigate.
“For too long the Labour council has used this as a local Pravda - local residents do not want it, it wastes scarce resources and it crowds out local and community newspapers with independent views.”
Paul Dossett, engagement lead at Grant Thornton, said in a letter to Cllr Wilson at the end of August: “It is clear from legislation that whatever political views councillors have, they should not use taxpayer funded newspapers or magazines to espouse party political views as objective facts.”
He later added: “I think it appropriate that some of the language in Haringey People should be modified and I will speak to the council about doing so.”
Mr Dossett also suggested that the council replaces the word “cuts”, which he said was littered across its articles, with an explanation on how both central government and the council is involved in setting a restricted budget.
The council was also urged to distinguish between comments from council leader Cllr Claire Kober and factual content.
A council spokesman said it “welcomed the auditor’s view” and will take on board his suggestions regarding the language it uses, adding: “Even after we make major efficiency savings, reductions in such funding leave no choice but to make cuts to some services.”
Following ongoing phased non-employment schedules many former Haringey staff will now be experiencing altered budgetary conditions in their domestic residences. Unfortunately, the occurrence of these restrictive financial recastings appear to be occuring at the same time as new, upgraded, revamped pricing schedules by the various suppliers of fuel, food and other household commodities.
Even so, I'm sure they will be pleased to know that they are still serving the borough in a new capacity - as an efficiency saving.
Phew, this new non-political clarity takes a bit of practice. I wonder, is it alright to use short but not quite so blunt and political words? Instead of "cut", How about trim, snip, or tuck?
(Labour councillor Tottenham Hale)
Its all well and good talking about cuts but what I've asked for in the past and never received was showing the the budget in the good times when money was easy so to speak and compared with now to show where the cuts are. Plus the fact that Haringey couldn't balance the books in the good times what chance do they have when money is tight.
Maybe if Joe Goldberg spent a little more time focussing on Haringey finances we'd be in a better position rather than pimping himself round the country looking for a parliamentary seat? Heard he was looking around Enfield and now he's on the Norwich South shortlist.
Maybe the council could be totally revolutionary and replace him with a proper finance person like Cllr Strang rather than one of the leaders NUS pals?
(Tottenham conservatives numbers man)
"It goes straight into the bin on arrival."
Such a quick, efficient way to review any publication, eh, Paul?
(Labour councillor Tottenham Hale ward)
Better to go in the recycling.
In the past, Cllr. Stanton informed me that, if I chose not to read his council's magazine, that I could use it for lining a cat litter tray (I consider that one of the councillor's most candid comments, if not necessarily a career move)
I don't have a cat, but have seriously considered getting one for this sole purpose.
Apart from its politically partisan posture, Haringey People magazine disappoints in other ways.
Consider the current issue (October/November). Unusually, I read this closely because of the proximity of an important anniversary in the Borough.
I was interested to see how the upcoming 75th anniversary of television would be recorded in the official magazine of the Borough's Council, whose corporate logo celebrates the first signals from the TV tower. The Borough's Coat of Arms has on its shield the same electric lightning flash logo. I recently saw the same dynamic symbol on the impressive medallion hanging around the neck of the Deputy Mayor. The symbol representing the first television broadcast appears on signs, council letterheads and vehicles throughout the Borough. There's been pride in the past.
Surely in their own publication, the council would make a big thing out of the 75th anniversary?
In the 36-page magazine, the anniversary merits three and a half column inches and about 50 words, on page 33, under "EVENT" "5 and 6 November". No picture. I nearly missed it altogether.
Meanwhile, in the same issue, a whole page (35) is devoted to "Day in the Life" of a council employee.
This pretty much sums up Haringey People. Things of interest to the wider public are sometimes given minimal attention; but internal matters of interest to themselves - navel gazing - are accorded prominence. This is the order of priority. It's not just the language in the magazine. It's the editorial slant.
Sorry? There's another party?
The only point of muswell hill seems to be to give the leader and her henchman somewhere nice to live yet remain in the same geographic council area.