In the wake of the furore over the censorship of Andy Slaughter MP by the Fulham Chronicle it has emerged that a formal letter has now been sent to Local Government Minister Grant Shapps alleging that the newspaper's editorial policies are in breach of a government Code of practice on local authority publicity which was recently introduced by the Government aimed at preventing what Secretary of State Eric Pickles has called "propaganda on the rates".
The letter, which was sent to the Minister last week, gives specific examples of the Chronicle's pro-council bias including their apparent decision to support the Council's stance on the Thames Tunnel, or as the council likes to call it, the "super sewer". In his letter Mr Slaughter notes that since being forced by the Government to close it's propaganda paper "H&F News", which the Government themselves referred to as a "Town Hall Pravda", the local authority has has started an electronic newsletter which carries the same content. Mr Slaughter says:
"In particular the newsletter campaigns on political issues, for example a long standing Council campaigns against the Thames Tunnel".He then adds:
"Simultaneously the Fulham Chronicle has launched a weekly column where opponents of the Thames Tunnel write in support of the council's campaign. This appears to be an example of the Council's large advertising and communications contract impacting editorial independence."Mr Slaughter concludes his letter by asking the Minister to take action. He says:
"Given these are clear, substantive and early breaches of the new Code, I believe it is necessary for the Government to take a closer look at this case and address what seems to be an attempt to undermine both the Code's letter and spirit."It will be very interesting to see what the Government's response to this letter is, as soon as I know anything I will bring it to you.