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Freedom from the Press

September 11, 2012 1:17 PM

The Local Government Association is leading a campaign to change the law so councils don't have to advertise public notices in local newspapers.

Councils spend about £68million every year on public notices in local papers. The individual cost of publishing a notice can be upwards of three times that for other adverts, reaching over £20 per column cm in some publications. This is because papers know they can get away with rip-off prices, since councils have no choice.

Yet nobody sees the ads: very few people still buy local papers, and of those only a tiny fraction look at the public notices. Where people do respond, for example to planning applications, it's more commonly because they've been notified as a neighbour or seen an on-site notice or an on-line notification.

If the laws were changed then almost all of the £68m would be saved. At a time when council budgets are tight it could be put to more productive use.

Yet the government is dragging its feet, and refusing to change the law despite repeated reminders that the digital age has arrived and Victorian-style public announcements are no longer required.

You can download the LGA report here