Society calls on Welsh government to rethink plans to remove council tax notices from local newspapers

Posted on: June 26, 2024 by Claire Meadows

The Society of Editors has called on the Welsh government to rethink its plans to remove council tax notices from local newspapers, saying that any decision to do so would create a ‘democratic deficit’ that is harmful to local communities.  

The Society’s warning comes after a provision in the Local Government Finance (Wales) Bill proposes to effectively remove the statutory requirement on local authorities to publish council taxes in printed local newspapers. The proposed legislation is next due to be debated in the Senedd on 9 July.

Calling on the Welsh government to re-think its plans, Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said: “Local newspapers play an integral role in keeping communities informed and, in an age of AI, social media inaccuracies and misinformation, the role of the local media as a trusted and vital source of news and information must not be under-estimated.  

“The statutory duty of local authorities to publish council tax notices in printed local newspapers ensures that both hard to reach communities and those that rely on traditional media are kept informed of important democratic information. To remove such an obligation risks not only creating a democratic deficit that is harmful to such communities but a situation whereby public engagement in local democracy is damaged as a result.

“We call on the Welsh government to rethink its plans and recognise the vital role that local newspapers play in ensuring that the public’s right to know remains fulfilled.”

The proposal has also been criticised by the chief executives of local news publishers in Wales who have warned that such a move could also trigger the removal of other types of notices from local newspapers in Wales as well as removing a significant revenue stream that supports local journalism.