There are a number of planning and highways applications/decisions which have to be published in local newspapers (sometimes in 2 successive weeks); some notifications even have to be in London Gazette. This is costly (including cost of staff arranging it to be published).
Instead of taking away the right for local authorities to produce their own newspapers the various rules should be amended to allow advertisement in those papers instead. It will greatly reduce cost and (in my view) increase the likelihood of them coming to the attention of the area's inhabitants (because few local newspapers are delivered to every house in an area). This could be done perhaps by a single provison in legislation stating that any reference to publishing in a newspaper circulating in the area etc would be met by inclusion within a local authority newspaper.
Such papers can also provide a vehicle for voluntary organisations and charities to advertise what they are doing, events which will be taking place and to provide feedback through photos taken at the events. It can re-engage communities, reduce costs and effort for community and charity organisers, increase the likely support at the events and provide members of the public with ideas (such as where to take the kids for an ebnjoyable afternoon to avoid them sitting in front of the TV), thereby increasing well-being of the area.
They could also be used as a means to engage the community in lcoal determination of planning matters as per the suggestions from the Coalition Government.
Such papers shouldn't be used to push political influence, but they should explain what the Authority is doing because that is also vital to engage with the community. Central Government gets such publicity for free through press statements, national TV and journalists seeking stories and Parliament (which you can watch on TV).
Such issues are often not so compelling for TV (even regional) and journalists (even at local newspapers) when it is at local government level because much of the news would be considered by them as not news-worthy or not sufficiently sensational. Nevertheless if you want people to be more engaged with democracy (as all parties profess to be) then people need access to the less "sensational" day to day information as well.
At some stage I am sure it will move to just electronic copies when the vast majority are all connected to broadband but until then I would expect that Authority newspapers can still be produced in a way which ultimately adds more value than it costs.
Whilst Mr Pickles attack may be understandable at some level, I believe he has failed to consider what such "newspapers" might offer in terms of the coalition government's stated objectives.
Why is this idea important?
more effectively bring notice of such planning and highways issues to a wide/relevant audience
increase the visibility of community and charitable organisations
provide information to the inhabitants which supports the re-engagement in the democratic process
provide information about what is happening in the community thereby increasing likely participation rates and enhance social integration