Storm over council mag

A row has erupted over a Wigan Council publicity magazine - Borough Life - funded by £190,000 of taxpayers' cash.

Coun Gareth Fairhurst, leader of the Independent Conservatives, has called for the magazine to be scrapped, just as councillors agreed a new two-year production contract.

Coun Fairhurst branded it a "waste of money" and a "thinly veiled publicity document" for the ruling Labour group.

Council leaders and officers today defended the publication, saying it was not political, was good value for money and an important means of communicating information about council services and activities.

The Metro has just signed a new 190,000 deal with Stoke-based Smith Davies Press to continue producing Borough Life for the next two years. It is currently quarterly but they are looking at increasing this to six publications a year.

Coun Fairhurst said: "It's easy spending nearly 200,000 of other people's money, but these are tough times. Tough decisions need to be made and the Borough Life magazine is a waste of money and should be scrapped The money could be much better spent.

"It's a thinly-veiled political magazine and you only ever see Labour councillors mentioned in there. Opposition councillors never get a look-in.

"I can understand if they don't include our criticisms but nothing that opposition councillors do are featured.

"All the information the council needs to impart can be found on the Internet and press releases in the papers."

But Steve Peddie, Wigan council's head of customer transformation, said: "The latest survey of our citizens' panel proves that Borough Life is popular and valued by the public. More than 80% say it is good and a similar number rely on it for information about the council.

"This is a very high approval rating for a council publication and it could never happen if Borough Life was party political or dealt in recycled news."

Coun Chris Ready, cabinet member for communications, said: "Most people I speak to feel very positive about Borough Life and I'm sorry that Coun Fairhurst doesn't"