Monday 14 July 2008

Is H&F Council’s Propaganda Being Honest With Us?

If you define honesty as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth then H&F Council is promoting messages that are far from truthful. For example, on the 2nd June of this year, H&F Council spent thousands of pounds writing to every resident in Shepherds Bush triumphantly proclaiming that there is “now officially less crime in Shepherds Bush”. However, the Metropolitan Police figures for the last municipal year clearly show that the overall number of crimes in Shepherds Bush rose by a staggering 4.6%.

Prior to that, on 6th March, residents contacted me to say that the Council had put advertisements up in Bishops Park, Fulham Palace Road and throughout the borough saying that “Fulham’s 24/7 neighbourhood policing was working”... But those parts of Fulham do not have 24/7 neighbourhood policing and neither do seven out of the eight Fulham wards. I wrote to the Council’s Monitoring Officer pointing out that their adverts were “deliberately misleading” and that I was considering reporting H&F Council to the Advertising Standards Authority. The Council responded saying that the posters have been “taken down with immediate effect” and were a “mistake”.

More public money was spent by H&F Council sending out a glossy leaflet to residents in the spring. It was designed to reverse the Conservative’s position on the Shepherds Bush tube station closure after the public reacted against their support for the shut down.

Then, there’s the Apollo license application judgement. For some reason, when the story was written up in the Council’s own propaganda sheet, H&F News, it failed to make any mention of the Labour councillor who had led the campaign against the licence; who had attended court to give evidence and who was even mentioned by the judge in her official summary of her judgement. Instead, they quoted a Conservative Councillor who hadn’t been involved in the campaign or even given evidence at court.

Meanwhile, Andy Slaughter MP (Lab) tells me that when he attended an event in his constituency in the north of the borough, a Council official told him that he could not be in press photos or appear in H&F News. Meanwhile, the Conservative MP in the south of the borough has appeared in H&F News twice in the last few months.

There are many more examples but the fact is that H&F Council spends vast amounts of money promoting a picture that's often far from the truth. Most reasonable people will agree that this is a misuse of public funds. While it is understandable that the Conservatives will want to do all they can to win public backing, it is hard to fathom why H&F Council uses tax payer funds to put out so much publicity that is little more than party political propaganda.


Anonymous said...

What about the huge lie in their pre-election pledge NOT to re-introduce homecare charging for practical support to older and disabled? They are still trying to justify this one.
Truth is obviously a relative concept for Fatman and Robbin'.

Anonymous said...

Bravo Steve, well said.

Anonymous said...

I’ve noticed that our council’s newspaper only reports stories that tell of our local government’s continuing progress and all with accompanying heroic pictures of our Tory councillors. No bad news is ever reported which must mean there isn’t any? It all sounds very familiar. Rather like Pravda under the Soviets.

Anonymous said...

There are other issues.
This council promotes itself at every opportunity. On the issues up to Mar 2007 in the bottom right hand corner HFNews carried the council logo with the wording "brought you by Hammersmith and Fulham Council". After Mar 2007 it doesn't. It carries the council web address but this is not as obvious as the earlier statement. Why downplay the fact this is a council publication when everything else the council does comes with massive fan fare?
Why does it describe itself as a newspaper. All papers have bias but to exclude some of the stories relevant to this borough, many of which originate from the town hall or are in the case of protests right outside the town hall, shows a level of incompetance which a council claiming to be efficient should not tolerate.
It also claims to have double the readers than it's nearest competitor. Assuming they are referring to the Chronicle and Gazzette and not Andrex(the only competitor it has in my house) why would they make this boast?
It can only be to dissuade people from buying the genuine papers because therefore suppressing articles of public interest that are not favourable to the council.
Do the Chronicle and Gazzette know about this "circulation war". As the council appear to be wanting to take their readers/revenue I think they should. Furthermore why don't the local papers take an interest in a "newspaper" that doesn't contain stories of public interest.It is a glaring example of waste of public funds and inefficiency! Perhaps someone could commission a survey to see how many people actually know that the HFNews is a council publication and then show them some of the headlines real papers contain and see if they then believe HFNews as is informative as they say it is!
Another nagging question is in a council that is against waste and for effeciency why don't they charge for HFNews- it will give them an idea of how it is viewed by the public- I mean they charge for other services. The positive side of this is they could guage how many people read it and tailor their production targets to that figure thus saving on paper and if it's as good as they say it is they can use the revenue to cut the cost of care charges.
They won't and we know why because the HFNews is quite simply a way of trying to form public opinion in a underhand way.

rupertbear21 (youtube)
The Youtube channel for local residents

or have we heard that before somewhere?

H&F Council Worker said...

I think you need to find out exactly how much is spent on HFPravda & associated propaganda. Remember that's not just the staff salaries (plenty of them now, inc some poached from the local paid for press), but being based somewhere in the back of the town hall means heat/light/fax/phone/email etc etc comes free gratis & for nothing. Doubtless things like essential car user, photography et al are buried under admin for the relevant department.

I think a big FoI request is needed.