Leader defends NS Life

Cllr Nigel Ashton

Cllr Nigel Ashton - Credit: Archant

GOVERNMENT demands for North Somerset Council to scale down its monthly newsletter have been challenged by the authority’s leader, who says doing so would amount to ‘dereliction of duty’.

Two weeks ago, Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins wrote to Nigel Ashton ordering the council to obey rules governing local authority publications. At present, North Somerset Life is printed monthly, while Publicity Code rules stipulate they should be quarterly, at most.

The rules aim to protect independent media, something Mr Hopkins described as ‘an essential element of any effectively operating local democracy’.

However, Cllr Ashton says Life plays a key role in communicating council news to the populace, and called for the Government to excuse his authority from the rules.

Cllr Ashton said: “I believe, very strongly, that the magazine, in its current format, is our single most effective means of communicating with our residents, there is not a viable alternative, it is not political, it does not compete with the local media, and it has demonstrated an ability to save the council money many times over.

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“For those reasons, I do not think it would be in the best interests of our resident community to reduce the magazine’s frequency to just four editions a year. We would be in dereliction of our duty to inform and safeguard. I hope, in the light of this evidence, that you will withdraw your objection to our current arrangement.”

Cllr Ashton previously said ‘Life costs £247,524 a year to research, write, design, print and distribute to 93,844 homes every month’, and described it as ‘very popular’.

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However, Liberal Democrat group leader Mike Bell argues the council should ‘stop wasting money’ on a ‘needless propaganda vehicle’, saying money should be spent on the services that have been cut in recent years instead.

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