Islington council leader accuses TfL of ‘petty censorship’ over budget ads

Cllr Richard Watts

Cllr Richard Watts - Credit: Archant

Islington Council has accused Transport for London of “petty censorship” after it blocked a bus stop advert informing residents about a consultation on cuts to public services.

Islington cuts consultation poster

Islington cuts consultation poster - Credit: Archant

TfL said the advert, which warns residents of “tough choices” as “national government will have cut its funding to Islington Council in half” by 2016, relates to “matters of public controversy and sensitivity” and therefore would fall foul of its advertising policy.

A similar advert, designed by Camden Council, is on display at bus stops in the neighbouring borough.

But TfL has said their policy does not apply at Camden stops as the space is owned by advertising company JC Decaux.

“TFL is run by the Mayor of London and I think it’s political.” said council leader Richard Watts.

Poster displayed at TfL bus stops in Camden

Poster displayed at TfL bus stops in Camden - Credit: Archant

“It’s quite serious, if I’m right, and it’s a political ban and this is about Boris Johnson as a Tory trying to censor us and hide the cuts from residents.

“Given there’s a massive challenge we think Islington residents should have a say on what they think is a priority for the borough.

Most Read

“In the context of how big the cuts are it’s important that we tell people what is going to have to happen and why.”

In August a secret council document leaked to the Gazette laid bare some of the potential cuts the town hall could have to make this Christmas, with libraries, leisure facilities and waste management all potentially on the chopping block.

The posters, which show a receipt of what Islington currently spends on services being cut by scissors, would cost the council around £1,200 to put out at bus stops across the borough.

They are part of a larger campaign to consult residents on which services are most valuable to them – and will involve Cllr Watts holding eight meetings with groups of residents in different parts of borough.

“What we’re not willing to do is dilute the message so that we’re not presenting the public with all the facts,” he said.

“There’s no point in just saying that by 2016 these cuts will be made because it’s not a choice by the council, it’s forced upon us.

“I think it’s very sad that it has come to this petty censorship.”

Mike Weston, TfL’s Director of Buses, said: “The adverts submitted for display on our network by Islington Council were rejected as they contravene our advertising policy which states that adverts will not be approved if they relate to a political cause.”