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Local Newspapers — [Mrs. Janet Dean in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 13th January 2010.

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Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow Shadow Chief Whip (Commons) 2:30 pm, 13th January 2010

I am grateful for that point, which is a fair one. It needs to be brought out, and has been brought out clearly in this debate.

In truth, without a huge public subsidy, East End Life would be dead and buried-it would not be able to run. However, if it were acting like a true newspaper, would it not hold the council to account? Let me give an example of what I mean.

Last year, Tower Hamlets paid out £800,000 after cancelling the contract of its chief executive. It paid out another £1 million in compensation to an employee over an age discrimination case, and £500,000 was paid in redundancy to the council's head of human resources. Large sums of public money are being paid out, but not a single column inch was devoted to explaining any of it in East End Life. When the books failed to balance for that particular operation, and the paper found itself with a £400,000 shortfall in advertising income, it dipped into the council's reserves to find money for a bail-out. There was no debate, there appears to be no accountability, and there were certainly no column inches devoted to explaining why that was a good use of council tax payers' money.

How can that be fair competition? Any commercial local paper facing such a drop in revenue would have to take drastic action such as cutting jobs and closing offices.