Parties in vow to axe council’s newsletter

Lesley Hinds' Labour party has said it will ditch Outlook if it wins in May
Lesley Hinds' Labour party has said it will ditch Outlook if it wins in May
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A COUNCIL newspaper dubbed “Pravda” for its unwaveringly positive coverage of city leaders would be scrapped under an election pledge by two political parties.

Defunct community-run newspapers would then be revived and handed a portion of Outlook’s £200,000 budget under plans by Labour and the Greens.

The measures – part of both parties’ manifestos for the council elections on May 3 – would see papers such as the West Edinburgh Times, South Edinburgh Echo and the Gorgie-Dalry Gazette given financial help to get up and running again.

Council cuts and loss of funding from the Fairer Scotland Fund led to the closure of six papers in recent years.

Labour and the Greens said the freesheet, delivered to certain areas four times per year, had “lost all credibility”.

Outlook currently costs £155,000 to design, print and distribute, with the rest of the cost stemming from the council’s £2 million-a-year communications team, which writes it.

Green councillor Steve Burgess said reviving defunct local papers would revitalise debate and awareness of key issues in communities.

He said: “Funding cuts have meant the loss of almost all our community newspapers in recent years and yet the council spends these huge sums promoting itself. By redirecting this money, we want to encourage a stronger sense of identity.”

Outlook was set up by the Labour administration in 2000 and at the time cost £167,000 per year, rising to £203,000 at one stage.

It is said to have become increasingly pro-administration in recent years and there have been calls to scrap it, including from Labour.

Three community newspapers folded last year after their budgets were cut, along with three others in 2008. However, the North Edinburgh News was revived in January, funded by the sale of the newspaper’s office after it originally folded.

Eddie Thorn, a member on the paper’s committee, said the £200,000 could fund the revival of all of the publications.

He said: “Our first edition in January has been very well received and we believe there is an enormous appetite for local news. It facilitates debate and discussion and allows us to promote the activities of other community groups in the area.

“Last year we were only looking for £35,000 to keep running, with advertising doing the rest. I would imagine £200,000 would sustain all of the others.”

Last year, the Evening News told how consultants Research Resource branded Outlook “very limited, with only a handful of participants mentioning these as a source of information”, although council leader Jenny Dawe has previously ruled out scrapping it.

Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group, said if his party won in May the publication would be scrapped.

He said: “We feel very strongly [that] Outlook has lost all credibility and is widely seen as propaganda.

“We would certainly scrap it and we have a clear manifesto pledge on the introduction of community newspapers. They are seen as much more neutral and people want to read about what’s happening in their local area.

“Financial support would vary but at its root would be the co-operative council model.”