Houses of Parliament

More than 100 MPs have taken part in the consultation so far

Credit: alancleaver_2000 on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

More than 100 MPs have taken part in a public consultation on a possible removal of the need for local authorities to advertise traffic orders in newspapers, parliament was told yesterday.

The Department for Transport is consulting on possible changes to the rules and transport minister Norman Baker is expected to meet representatives from regional newspaper body the Newspaper Society this week to discuss their concerns.

Speaking at a Westminster Hall debate on local media yesterday, Conservative MP for Stevenage Stephen McPartland said removing the requirement for public notices to be run in the local press would "undermine further the financial viability of local newspapers".

McPartland said: "I accept that we are not in the business of subsidising local newspapers and that taxpayers should not pay for advertising in that sense. However, we should not be in the business of encouraging local authorities to compete against newspapers by taking that advertising revenue away from those newspapers and putting things on their own websites.

He later added: "We need to ensure that statutory notices remain compulsory, and that it remains compulsory for them to be produced in the local media. Undoubtedly, that helps local newspapers financially and ensures that local people know where to go if they want to see notices about certain things, such as planning applications."

Junior culture minister Ed Vaizey replied: "Local newspapers play a vital role in supporting local democracy. All of us know and love our local newspapers, no matter how badly they behave towards us, because we recognise their constitutional importance. We take local newspapers seriously.

"Local councils spend around £20 million a year on advertising traffic regulation orders in local newspapers. I should add the caveat that local newspaper groups, such as the Newspaper Society, do not necessarily agree that that is the sum that is spent. Saving money by reducing advertising costs would be a good thing."

He added: "Clearly, there is a balance to be struck in achieving value for money for the council tax payer, but I am pleased that the Department for Transport has recognised, through the consultation process, the importance of statutory notices to a free and thriving local newspaper press.

"Obviously, I cannot prejudge the outcome of that consultation, but I know that you will be pleased that many of their colleagues have made representations on behalf of their local newspapers to the Department for Transport and that the department is actively engaged in consultation."

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