Search

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

Archant

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.”

0 comments

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

12:58
Nurul Islam celebrates at his Belsize Park kiosk with customers and Ham&High reporter Emily Banks, right.       Picture: Polly Hancock

The vendor who runs the Belsize Park newspaper kiosk today thanked his customers for pressuring Camden Council into doing a u-turn over the rent hike which threatened his business.

11:17
Gabriella with mum Nazanin on her first birthday

A distraught father whose daughter faces her second birthday forced apart from her parents while detained in Iran has urged children around the world to send her a birthday card.

Victor in Delhi

A ‘smart and popular’ 22-year-old who died in a motorbike crash has been remembered at his former school.

Yesterday, 18:09
A pole will be located at the end of Nassington  Road by the entrance to Hampstead Heath

New plans for an Orthodox Jewish boundary across Camden have been submitted.

Yesterday, 15:34
The mystery girl was found wandering in  the evening in Daleham Gardens

Police are trying to trace an 11-year-old girl who was discovered wandering in the street in her pyjamas saying she had run away from home.

Yesterday, 15:31
Service users at the Highgate Day Centre were left feeling

Service users at a mental health day centre in Camden were “heartbroken” after hundreds of pieces of artwork produced during therapeutic art classes were thrown out with the rubbish.

Yesterday, 12:39
Neighbours are

Neighbours in Gospel Oak say they are “still friends” after publicly airing their difference of opinion over the Brexit question.

Yesterday, 12:05
An artist's impression of the cycling superhighway in Avenue Road

Camden Council has called on Transport for London (TfL) to conduct further traffic modelling for the propsed Cycle-Superhighway (CS11) scheme to take account of the likely impact of High Speed Rail (HS2).

PROMOTED CONTENT

There are no rules when it comes to buying studio pottery beyond choosing what you love

With The Great Pottery Throwdown captivating viewers across the nation, pottery courses at capacity, and hipsters snapping up vintage studio pieces to display their succulents in and post on Instagram, studio pottery and ceramics are definitely having a moment.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

HOT JOBS

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

Competitions

Win a BMW 1 series

There are fewer cars currently on the market more stylish and exciting than the BMW. Known all over the world as one of the best car manufacturers, the BMW is renowned for sleek designs and fantastic high quality workmanship.

Kindle 7 inch tablet

Are you looking for a brand new gadget to help you stay connected on the go and make that long journey home a bit more entertaining? Look no further. MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Kindle Fire 7” Display Tablets! That’s 50 times more chances to win, so hurry up and enter our competition today and you could be one of our lucky winners!

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe