'PARTY POLITICAL PROPAGANDA ON THE RATES'

Independent – 24 August 1988

Margaret Hodge's complaints (letter, 16 August) about the long-overdue reining-in of partisan local government propaganda on the rates tells a typically partial tale.

As local government's powers are conferred on it from above – not mandated to it by the electorate below – the spending of councils' publicity budgets in challenging national policies made action to curb such abuses inevitable.

Ms Hodge is right in saying that controls introduced to stop councils indulging in "party political publicity" entirely missed their target: anti-nuclear propaganda, for example, would not have been caught by such a narrowly-worded test. What was required was legislation to ban local authorities, which were pusturing as some sort of "local state" rival to national government, from indulging in politically partisan publicity on the rates.

This has now been recognised by the much more ably drafted Section 27 of the Local Government Act 1988, effectively prohibiting material which

"... promotes or opposes a point of view on a question of political controversy which is identifiable as the view of one political party and not of another."

It is easy to see why Margaret Hodge is so upset about it.

JULIAN LEWIS
Campaign Against Council Corruption
London SE1