Council newspapers should be prevented from publishing more than four times a year to prevent the "wasteful" use of resources, the government said today.

Proposals published by the Department for Communities and Local Government detail changes to the Local Authority Publicity Code as part of Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles' plans to "crack down" on council-funded newspapers.

He outlined that council resources should be redirected into protecting front line services and that all council publicity should be clearly branded material, used to explain services and not to influence opinion.

"An independent local press is an essential part of our open democracy helping local people scrutinise and hold elected councillors to account," he said in an announcement on the department website.

"The rules around council publicity have been too weak for too long allowing public money to be spent on wasteful town hall papers that have left many local newspapers looking over the abyss.

"The proposals I am publishing today will close off these inappropriate practices and encourage councils to focus taxpayers' money on where it should be spent - protecting frontline services."

According to the revised code local authorities should not publish newsletters, newssheets or similar communications which "seek to emulate commercial newspapers in style or content".

"Where local authorities do commission or publish newssheets, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly. They should not include material other than information for the public about the business, services and amenities of the council or other local service providers", the code adds.

The Newspaper Society told the proposals are "enouraging".

"Local newspapers fulfil a vital democratic role as the only independent voices which can effectively hold local authorities to account so it is encouraging to see the Government pressing ahead with its commitment to crack down on competing local authority newspapers, websites and other media platforms," David Newell director of the Newspaper Society said in a statement.

Consultation on the revised government Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity will end on 10 November.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council has today announced it wants to set up a partnership arrangement with an independent news provider to "transform" its newspaper, H&F News.

In a release the London borough council said the partnership "would guarantee 100 per cent editorial independence" and council leader Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh said it would create the "best of both worlds".

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