Watchdog backs council papers

Regional newspaper groups were dealt a blow yesterday as the Audit Commission said free council-run newspapers were not wasting taxpayers’ money. The regulator’s chief executive, Steven Bundred, said few local authorities’ newspapers were in a position to compete with local media for advertising. “The money being spent by councils is not unreasonable, though they should always consider whether it provides good value,” he wrote to Digital Britain minister Stephen Timms. Trinity Mirror shares slid 2.25 per cent to 152.8p on the news. Chief executive Sly Bailey urged the government not to “pass the buck”, adding: “The abuse of taxpayers’ money to peddle council propaganda dressed up as journalism is an outrage.”