Greenwich Time’s Tory twin bites the dust

As BBC journalists walk out on strike, there’s another development affecting journalism in Shepherd’s Bush that is likely to impact on us here in Greenwich.

H&F News, the propaganda paper put out by Conservative-run Hammersmith & Fulham Council is to close, the Newspaper Society reports. The NS is, as you’d expect, the trade association for the local press, so you’ll have to excuse their jubilant tone.

Hammersmith & Fulham’s fortnightly ‘newspaper’ will close next year after the council unexpectedly withdrew the tender for a commercial partner to run H&F News which it had announced a month ago.

The council now says it “will no longer be producing a newspaper from the spring/summer of 2011 and therefore wishes to place this advertising in another newspaper.” It also aims to transfer the existing private commercial advertising currently carried by H&F News, projected at £375,000 in 2010/11.

Last week PR Week reported that the Department for Communities and Local Government was set to “stand up to Hammersmith & Fulham Council if it went ahead with plans to get around the proposed ban on frequently produced council magazines.”

According to the article: “Hammersmith & Fulham revealed plans to get around the new limitations by transferring the fortnightly publication of H&F News to an independent news provider. But paragraph 28 of the proposed code states that the ruling would also cover commissioning. A DCLG source said it would be unlawful for councils to disregard the new code once it came into force.”

Communities Minister Bob Neill said: “I welcome this decision by Hammersmith and Fulham.

“Councils should spend less time and money on weekly town hall Pravdas that end up in the bin, and focus more on frontline services like providing regular rubbish collections.”

Here in south-east London, it means the fat lady is getting ready to gargle the Listerine for Greenwich Time, a more obvious offender than its west London cousin since it is published weekly.

Putting GT out to tender to a “commercial partner” is no longer an option following Hammersmith & Fulham’s decision; although whether it was a choice at all is open to question since Community First Journals, the company associated with GT editor Peter Cordwell, has been classed as a non-trading outfit since he before he took over the newspaper in the spring of 2008.

What happens next, though, is uncertain – neither the Mercury nor the News Shopper have anywhere near the distribution strength that GT enjoys, and Greenwich borough has no paid-for weekly newspaper. So where would Greenwich place its advertising budget, and who would it team up with?

That said, the Bexley Times seems to have been upping its Greenwich coverage lately, curious for a newspaper rarely seen beyond Eltham, where it once ran an edition called the Eltham Times. Maybe publishing house Archant – which also runs freebie The Peninsula, seen in parts of Greenwich – knows something we don’t?

I’m hugely grateful to Shepherd’s Bush Blog for the tip-off – it carries news of H&F News’s demise, and reaction from jubilant Labour councillors.

Indeed, this is Labour MP Andy Slaughter talking about H&F News – but it could so easily apply to a newspaper published by his own colleagues in the London Labour Party.

This discredited publication has been a blight on our borough since it was cooked up by the clique running the town hall. It moved from vanity publishing to pernicious propaganda that aimed to silence all opposition to some of the most ill-advised schemes ever dreamed up by a local council.

Greenwich Labour’s opponents have no doubt prepared their own quotes for GT’s obituary. As Guy Fawkes’ Day dawns – still no mention of Greenwich Council pulling funding for Blackheath fireworks in Greenwich Time, remember – it looks more likely they’ll get to use them.