COMMUNITIES secretary Eric Pickles is backing Local Newspaper Week.

In a letter to the Newspaper Society, praising a campaign to highlight the contribution of local papers, Mr Pickles said that when "local news flourishes, local democracy succeeds" and has pledged to stop councils from publishing regular 'Pravda-style' free-sheets which threaten newspapers and waste taxpayers' money printing up town hall propaganda.

He added newspapers like the Chronicle are important in holding local authorities and politicians to account, and legislation proposed in the Local Audit and Accountability Bill will bring a new Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity onto a statutory footing.

Mr Pickles said: "The spread of the town hall 'Pravda' is manifestly unfair because they offer cut price local news, but mixed in with council propaganda that pours taxpayers money down the drain.

"These free-sheets are often confused for the real thing by residents. I want our news to be told and sold under the masthead of an independent and free press, not through a knock-off Rolex imitation."