Is Greenwich Time starting to break even?

Greenwich Council’s controversial weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time, has begun to break even, it was suggested at last night’s full council meeting.

The news comes as government minister Eric Pickles threatened councils who are continuing to publish regular newspapers with a judicial review of their activities.

Pickles attempted to ban papers like Greenwich Time by introducing a new code on publicity for local councils, restricting publication to just four times a year.

But Greenwich has defied the code, claiming Greenwich Time saves it £1m a year in advertising costs.

In a written response to a question from Conservative councillor Matt Clare, deputy leader Peter Brooks said that in the first three months of this financial year, Greenwich Time had an income of £39,071.63 from external advertising, against a net cost of £38,729.74.

This would indicate the council had made a small profit of £341.89 on the newspaper.

Last year, the paper cost the council £189,992 – 3.6p per copy, Cllr Brooks added.

The paper’s future is currently under review and a report will be presented to the council’s cabinet in July. A preliminary report indicated the council saw the code as “guidance” without the force of law.

Responding to a further question from Cllr Clare, Peter Brooks said the council was “in the process of looking at all options for Greenwich Time”.

“All options are being put in front of us and [council communications chief] Katrina Delaney and her team are still working on working out the costs [of those options] versus how much it costs to do Greenwich Time, and just what the legislation really means.”

However, it is clear to sharp-eyed readers that the paper has undergone some subtle changes in response to Pickles’ code. It was relaunched as a weekly in 2008 with the slogan “the newspaper campaigning for an even greater Greenwich”.

It now carries a council logo and the slogan “produced by Greenwich Council for the community for over 25 years”.

Editorial and photography has also been cut back to save money, while the TV guide has also been dropped – despite the paper carrying a letter last year from a reader claiming “I rely on my council to provide such a small service in their paper”.

Cllr Brooks also indicated that Greenwich Time should not have led with a story extolling the virtues of a BMX track in the week its planning board was due to discuss its siting in Hornfair Park, Charlton – as highlighted by this website earlier this month.

In a written response to a question from Conservative councillor Geoff Brighty, he said: “I agree great concern must be taken on the timing of publicity.”