I am a strong defender of a strong, free, independent press. In Camden, where we have two great newspapers, that’s easy to say. However, sadly, Camden’s administration finds it difficult to put into practice.

Take the Camden magazine. It costs almost £200,000 a year to produce and is chock-a-block with a combination of (a) things that the local newspaper would probably publish and (b) gushing pieces about how great Camden’s services are, alongside pictures of Labour councillors. The former doesn’t need taxpayers’ money to publish and the latter shouldn’t get it.

It’s further emerged that Camden has spent £60,000 on upgrading its LoveCamden website – which the Council uses to promote cultural events in the borough. As if two local newspapers – each with their own culture listings and review sections – the Evening Standard, Time Out, etc weren’t enough!

Not only does this duplicate the local press, which should have our support, not competition, but £60,000 will seem eye-wateringly expensive to duplicate our local press, especially while Camden Labour cut services, hike taxes, and increase councillors’ own pay.

I’ve commissioned website redesigns, and high-performance, professional bespoke websites rarely come in at more than £15,000 or £20,000 (this website cost £0 and no pence, but nobody will be surprised by that!).

Camden must make sure it’s getting value for money and not sign on the dotted line until and unless the administration has ensured the work can’t be done cheaper elsewhere and isn’t just cannibalising our independent local press.

Update: This was covered in the Camden New Journal and Hold the Front Page.

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