Councillors argue over in-house newspaper dubbed 'left-wing propaganda'

Councillors have argued over the value of a free newspaper, dubbed "left-wing propaganda", which is distributed to residents across Sandwell.

Sandwell Council and Labour group leader Rajbir Singh appears in the most recent edition 14 times, a Tory councillor said
Sandwell Council and Labour group leader Rajbir Singh appears in the most recent edition 14 times, a Tory councillor said

The Sandwell Herald, which is delivered to 134,000 homes, is produced by the council three times annually at a cost of £42,000 to inform residents of the authority's news.

At the meeting of the council on Tuesday, Councillor Liam Abrahams, member for Great Barr and Yew Tree, proposed that the publication be discontinued and instead 150 new litter bins be installed across the borough.

Councillor Abrahams said for every printed edition of the Sandwell Herald 200 trees are felled, 6.5million litres of water are used, and the CO2 produced is the same as driving a car 200,000 miles.

He said the money should be spent in other ways.

"I would like to see litter bins installed," he said.

"We are not doing enough to pick up litter. We could have supported four businesses throughout Covid which we did not do very well.

"An extra 2,000 people could have been supported with a Covid uplift for a week. This council need to stop the outdated propaganda and spend the money more appropriately."

Labour councillor Steve Melia spoke up in opposition to the proposal.

He said the Sandwell Herald was first published in 1982 following a Government guidance that public bodies have a duty to inform residents of what they are doing.

He said it has contained important health and safety information and a lot of information about Covid.

Sandwell Council House

"The information contained is especially important to residents who are not online and who do not buy a daily paper," said Councillor Melia.

"Each edition costs 11 pence per copy to households.

"The design is carried out in-house as part of officers' existing work duties. It is not hired out to private companies, only for distribution.

"I believe it is excellent value for what it does."

Councillor Abrahams said the latest edition contained 14 photographs of the leader Rajbir Singh.

"I see enough of the leader," remarked Conservative councillor William Gill.

"I don't want to see him when I am having my coffee and cereal."

Conservative councillor David Fisher said he would like to see money invested in "community assets rather than left wing propaganda".

Labour councillor Ellen Fenton said she would like to speak for the elderly people in her ward.

She asked if her fellow councillors had better ideas on how to get information out to the people of Sandwell.

To shouts of "Pravda" from the gallery Councillor Melia's amendment in support of the publication was carried.

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