Headlines: August 10th, 2010

Agencies of Community and Local Government have been told to terminate contracts with lobbying companies and a consultation has been launched to tighten rules to prevent local authorities hiring lobbyists.

The Audit Commission, Ordnance Survey and the Tenants Services Authority, are among the agencies that have been told to cancel their contracts with lobbying firms.

The use of lobbyists by councils is regulated by the Local Authority Publicity Code which does not prevent the use of public funds being spent on private lobbying contractors to persuade the public or Government to take a particular view on specific policies. A consultation process has been launched to strengthen the guidance to cut out the lobbying companies.

Ministers believe that using public funds on local government campaigns, or to lobby government, wastes public money as it gets used beyond the local area. Public policy is also weakened when conducted by private lobbying firms.

Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary, said: “Taxpayer-funded lobbying and propaganda on the rates weakens our democracy.” He added: “Local activism and localism don’t need lobbyists. If local politicians want to change the way government operates, their council should send a letter or pick up the phone. Councillors can campaign for change at a personal or party political level, rather than throwing away other people’s council tax on the corrosive and wasteful practice of government lobbying government. These tough new rules will lower the cost of politics and increase transparency.”