The closure of the Westminster Chronicle – a sad day for local democracy

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, writes;

“I was extremely saddened to hear of the decision to close down the Westminster Chronicle. As an avid reader of the Chronicle and its predecessors, the Marylebone Mercury, Paddington Mercury and Westminster & Pimlico News, for over 40 years I know how important a free and independent local press has been to safeguarding local democracy in Westminster and holding those in power to account.

It has been a privilege to work with so many fine journalists, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers in the national media.

Looking back, the Marylebone and Paddington Mercury were both instrumental in exposing the many local scandals for which Westminster Conservatives have been responsible. Without the dogged and determined investigative work by a number of Mercury journalists the infamous ‘Homes for Votes’ scandal would not have received so much widespread publicity. It was the Mercury that first broke the story of the 15p cemeteries sold by Shirley Porter.

The Mercury campaigns helped the Council recover over £12 million of the surcharge owed by Shirley Porter for the ‘Homes for Votes’ scandal. And it was the Mercury’s reporting of the 15p cemeteries debacle that helped to force the Council to buy back the three cemeteries in Mill Hill, East Finchley and Hanwell.

More recently, the Chronicle has continued this fine tradition of reporting all the news that the Conservatives wanted hidden, this time through regular and extensive coverage of Westminster Council’s foolhardy plans to introduce evening and Sunday parking charges in the West End. No doubt the former Leader of the Council who lost his job because this parking charge fiasco would also acknowledge the important role of the Chronicle in holding to account those who exercise power.

Councillors of all parties know how much the local press is part of the democratic process. The job of Opposition Councillors is never easy but with the Chronicle’s passing our job has just got even tougher!”

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