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.”
Therefore the editing exaggerates the prominence that the council accords to TV75 within their 36-page publication. You should be able to find their article more quickly as a result.
As a footnote, the original lightning flash logo (left) was "updated" a few years ago into something pretty ugly. IMO, the update is a distortion in more ways than one. You can see the relatively new, twisted logo at the bottom right corner on the Haringey People cover. It's been compared with a squashed spider, possibly trying to escape from a box ...
the council, its workers and residents are entitled to a bit of self-congrats don't you think?
I think the council responded well to the riots, but often the council is doing no more than its job and yet still feels the need to congratulate itself. Some municipal humility might win more respect.
The news story (the riots etc) was covered in other media. There is still a regular free press that is purchased by willing buyers.
The problem with HP and self-congratulation is that the magazine does little else.
Self congrats would be appropriate for an in-house journal. But when the council engages in self-congratulation, it is not only sent to every household in the Borough, but residents pay for council-self-congratulation.
Outside River Park House there are thousands of people who work hard (possibly harder) who neither expect nor receive congratulation, let alone praise going into every household.
Thats a good point clive - it does read like an inhouse rag - ours has just moved online only saving hundreds of thousands a year.
Is there a council in house mag as well?
Billy I think its got elements of an in-house magazine but IMO, the best analogy is with the Jehovah Witness's Watchtower magazine. (I apologise to any Jehovah's Witnesses, but even they might acknowledge that their magazine is promoting a particular viewpoint).
For those who haven't received Watchtower recently, its an illustrated religious magazine published bi-monthly in many languages and delivered door-to-door. Like Haringey People, they aim for maximum coverage and they print even more copies than the Council: 42m/month.
Watchtower is an unashamedly prozelytizing publication; HP is a prozeltyzing publication that pretends otherwise and uses general taxation to do so.
The thread began with reference to comments by the accountants Grant Thornton. It doesn't take an auditor to detect the bias of Haringey People, you just have have a reading age of 12.