Decision of the Complaints Committee – 01199-22 Maksoi v northantslive.news
Summary of Complaint
1. Mark Maksoi complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that northantslive.news breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Council tax freeze for Northampton but bills still set to rise”, published on 27 January 2022.
2. The online article reported that Northampton Town Council had decided to “freeze” the tax amount residents would pay in the next year. It said that the decision meant “the average property in Northampton parish will still pay £48.78 a year”, adding that this was just “94p per week, the same as in 2021/22”. It included comments made by the Chair of the Council’s Policy and Finance Committee who had proposed the budget. It went on to explain that the Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner was seeking an increase of “£10 a year, around 19p a year, a week for a Band D property, in the policing precept”, noting that this proposed increase to the “council tax precept for Northampton Fire & Rescue Service” would be discussed at a forthcoming meeting.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) to report that council tax was frozen at, on average, £48.78; the cheapest council tax in Northampton was well over £100.
4. The publication did not accept a breach of the Editors’ Code. It said that the disputed figure related to the average amount per year that goes towards the Northampton Town Council; not the total amount of Council Tax paid by residents. It added that the article had been based upon a press release issued by the town council following a public meeting where the “council tax freeze” was agreed. This made clear that the figure related to the “average property in [the] parish”.
Relevant Code Provisions
Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
5. The complainant was concerned that the article had incorrectly reported that the average council tax was frozen at £48.78. However, the publication stated that this figure had been included in a council press release and related only to the precept set by Northampton Town Council, a parish council, which was incorporated into the wider Council Tax set by the local authority, rather than reflecting the average overall Council Tax bill. The question for the Committee was whether this distinction was made sufficiently clear in the article. It noted that the sub-headline stated that the “freeze” referenced in the headline has been instigated specifically by “Northampton Town Council” and, furthermore, that the headline had stated that while there was a Council tax freeze in place for Northampton, “bills were set to increase”. The body of the article also went on to discuss proposed increases to the “policing precept” which was “part of the council tax going towards the county’s policing budget”. As such, the Committee was satisfied, that the council tax freeze referenced in the headline related only to the amount charged by Northampton Town Council, rather than to the overall Council Tax bill paid by residents. There was no breach of Clause 1.
6. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 28/01/2022
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 05/04/2022Back to ruling listing