Revised rules governing the 'appropriate' use of council newspapers have been put before parliament, it was announced today.

Last year, the government outlined its proposals for a revised Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, which then went to consultation.

In January it was reported that following a short inquiry into the plans, MPs on the Commons' communities and local government committee had argued that the proposals should be reconsidered.

Today the minister for Housing and Local Government, the Rt Hon Grant Shapps announced that having "carefully considered" the responses he was putting a revised code before Parliament. If approved it will replace the existing Code of Practice.

The revised code outlines seven principles for ensuring council publicity is "lawful, cost effective, objective, even handed and appropriate".

According to the new rules, appropriate use of publicity would include ensuring publications are not in direct competition to local press and should not appear more than quarterly, with material directly related to local services. The measures match those outlined in the original proposals.

The rules also state that parish councils must not issue publications more than once a month.

"An independent local press is an essential part of our open democracy and it is a vital part of local accountability, but the rules around council publicity have been too weak for too long squandering public funds and pushing local newspapers out into the abyss," secretary of state for local government Eric Pickles said in a statement.

"Some councils have pushed this to the limits and were effectively lobbying on the rates. The changes will end the weekly Town Hall freesheets, stop professional lobbyists being hired and make advertising guidelines crystal clear so councils know exactly when misuse of public funds is a breach of the code."

Following the announcement National Union of Journalists general secretary Jeremy Dear criticised the proposals which he claimed remained "virtually unchanged", a decision he called "undemocratic and perverse".

"The committee found no evidence to back up Eric Pickles' wild assertions, it called for a fair and independent assessment of the impact of such publications on local newspapers – Eric Pickles has chosen not to deal with the facts but to display gross ignorance and bias."

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