Is Orwell’s ‘newspeak’ finally here? Fears Camden Council may become ‘propaganda arm’ of Tory-led government

09:00 20 January 2014

Council leader Cllr Sarah Hayward is worried Camden Council is about to be gagged by the new laws

Council leader Cllr Sarah Hayward is worried Camden Council is about to be gagged by the new laws


Camden Council’s leader has delivered a stark message to residents warning the council could soon find itself becoming the “propaganda arm” of the Tory-led government.

File photo dated 16/03/13 of Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles who has been accused of "grandstanding" and reinforcing "negative stereotypes" about travellers and gypsies after saying councils must act more quickly to shut down unauthorised encampments.File photo dated 16/03/13 of Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles who has been accused of "grandstanding" and reinforcing "negative stereotypes" about travellers and gypsies after saying councils must act more quickly to shut down unauthorised encampments.

Cllr Sarah Hayward, who has been in charge of the Labour council for almost two years, made the comments as a controversial new bill – spearheaded by communities secretary Eric Pickles – continued its passage through Parliament, soon to afford central government a swathe of new “censorship” powers.

The Local Audit and Accountability Bill – now in its final stages – instils a code of conduct designed to ensure “objectivity” is achieved in council communications.

Mr Pickles claims the measures are needed to stop local authorities from using public money to spread their own political messages via council newspapers and magazines.

But critics say the measures are tantamount to censorship.

“The new powers effectively give Mr Pickles a veto on what any town hall across the country puts out to its residents,” claims Cllr Hayward.

“We’re going to have to seriously consider how we are able to communicate to residents now – and my concern is we won’t be able to state facts that government disagrees with.

“This is going to directly affect people in Camden in a number of ways as he has effectively gagged us.

“Talking about High Speed 2 rail will be particularly troublesome as it is the biggest issue we’ll be facing over the coming period.

“This is a project presenting huge disruptions and it will be very difficult to communicate – as Mr Pickles will want – in a positive way to the people of Camden.

“Informing people of benefit cuts and cuts to local services will also become problematic.

“The new rules have the potential to make the situation a complete horror show.

“If we’re not careful, our councils will just become a propaganda arm for central government.”

The leader of Barnet’s Conservative-led council has also criticised the proposals.

“I understand why Mr Pickles might be concerned but these proposals are a very blunt instrument when existing measures are sufficient,” said Cllr Richard Cornelius.

“We always take great care not to be political in our communications but we still need to get messages across to the public.”

With the lexicon of “bedroom tax”, “benefit cuts” and even “council gagging” potentially at risk from a bureaucratic censor in Whitehall, references to an Orwellian “Newspeak” has not been lost on opponents.

The Local Government Association has branded the move a “threat to democracy”.

Suspicion is also high over Mr Pickles’ manoeuvring as the new “censor-in-chief”.

Already opposition Labour ministers say they have uncovered evidence of Mr Pickles’ department putting out pro-government communications that they “suggest” councils use to inform their residents about issues.

But local government minister Brandon Lewis said the measures were about cutting “unnecessary” spending on “town hall pravdas”.

He added: “We are looking at putting the publicity code on a statutory basis to address this corrosive abuse of taxpayers’ money.”


Latest News Stories

Saturday, February 6, 2016
The Mayor of Haringey Cllr Jennifer Mann, signs Hornsey Pensioners Action group's Dignity Action Day petition  calling for Better Care Now! Photo: Nigel Sutton

Intrepid members of Hornsey Pensioners’ Action Group braved Storm Henry to call for the rights of elderly people as part of Dignity Action Day on February 1.

Saturday, February 6, 2016
The Highgate Society debated the economics of austerity with Vicky Pryce, and Ewen Stewart with students, Benedict Milner from Highgate School and Zelda Feldman from La Sainte Union School.

Vicky Pryce, the Greek-born economist who was jailed for perverting the course of justice, told an audience in Highgate last night that austerity is not the answer to the UK’s economic problems.

Saturday, February 6, 2016
Lynne Featherstone celebrates the release of her book Equal Ever After outoside the House of Lords. Photo: Polly Hancock

Lynne Featherstone, former MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, didn’t waste much time after losing her seat in the Lib Dem cull of last year’s general election.

Saturday, February 6, 2016
The Queen Mother opening the hospice

It is a national charity which traces its roots to Hampstead – and now it is appealing for new recruits in its hospice.

Friday, February 5, 2016
Crouch End neighbourhood forum members Dave Winskill, Sally Mustoe & Mark Afford

Friday, February 5, 2016
Headteacher John Dowd spoke at the tribunal. Picture: Nigel Sutton

An employment tribunal has today rejected a former teaching assistant’s claims that she was discriminated against because of her disability.

Friday, February 5, 2016
James Flanagan was jailed for the assault

A Kentish Town man has been jailed for a “sustained, cowardly and vicious” attack which left a top sports journalist in a coma.

Friday, February 5, 2016
The proposed strike has been called off Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

A 48-hour Tube strike due to start tomorrow evening has been called off.

Most read news


Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot


Sony Smart Ultra HD 55'' LED TV

Enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience in your living room with the Sony Smart Ultra 55’’ LED TV. Be the envy of all your friends with this huge TV- you can change your living room into your own cinema! Get the boys around to watch the football or get the girls around to watch the DVD of 50 Shades.. this is a prize that everyone would enjoy! Stand a chance to upgrade your current entertainment system by wining this fantastic prize.

Surface Pro 4

Technology is ever evolving. We are constantly being shown new technology that is innovative, revolutionary and designed to make life easier for us all. Gone are the days of dial up modems and computers so large you needed half a room to store it. We are in the age of smooth, small and sleek. Companies are all trying their best to create technology that is easy to transport and guaranteed to be user friendly.

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today