LABOUR has been forced to reconsider its controversial plan to launch a monthly Wirral Council newspaper.

The proposal sparked a political storm and now the ruling group faces a backlash from opposition councillors.

All 21 members of the Conservative group have signed a document to trigger a "call-in" procedure which forces the council to review key decisions.

It means the planned publication - dubbed a "town hall Pravda" - will now have to go before a scrutiny committee where its legality and other issues will be examined.

The proposal caused uproar as it appears to fly in the face of Government rules restricting such publications to four editions a year.

The call-in document urges the Labour group - whose cabinet unanimously approved the scheme - to rethink or they could risk wasting thousands of pounds in legal fees.

It points out Greenwich Council has spent £48,000 on lawyers' advice defending its publication "Greenwich Times" which the Department of Communities and Local Government argued contravened the code of practice for local authority publicity.

The paper was published for the last time on June 28 this year following an agreement to abide by the code.

The Wirral call-in says: "We believe it is a costly miscalculation for the Labour cabinet to believe it is somehow above Government guidance.

"Within the cabinet report and at the subsequent meeting there was absolutely no consideration given to the variety of successful community publications that operate across Wirral.

"We believe this shows a complete disregard for the years of hard work that a great number of community activists have given to Wirral and jeopardises the invaluable goodwill that the council relies upon to deliver its significant community engagement agenda.

"The Labour administration cannot control what these papers print and we are concerned that this may be the driving force behind the creation of this town hall Pravda."

And it concludes: "The Government has shown it is committed to ensuring the independent free press does not face unfair competition from municipal publications.

"We believe cabinet’s disregard for recommended code of practice for local authority publicity is tantamount to Labour playing fast and loose with council taxpayers' money."

But the council's senior manager for communications and marketing Kevin MacCallum defended the decision.

He said: “Residents told us they wanted to be better informed; they told us they wanted more information about the services which are in place to support them.

“We have a duty to respond to this feedback, and make sure every resident – regardless of where they live – has access to up to date, current and helpful information about the public services which are available to them.

“We have to advertise and promote our services – we have to sell tickets at Floral Pavilion shows, we have to promote our leisure centres, to recruit staff, to encourage people to become foster carers – these requirements will never go away and they all cost money.

“This publication allows us to take some of this money and use it to get all of these important messages to many thousands more residents than we are currently able to.

"In our view this is a sensible and pragmatic proposal which will provide excellent value for money.”