Resolution Statement – 02576-20 Glasgow City Council v Glasgow Times

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement – 02576-20 Glasgow City Council v Glasgow Times

Summary of Complaint

1. Glasgow City Council complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Glasgow Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Take note of cash splashed on pens”, published on 3 April 2020.

2. The article reported on a Freedom of Information request submitted to the Council regarding the Council’s expenditure on stationary. The article reported that the Freedom of Information request had revealed that “£5million has been splashed out on pens, pencils, and paper-clips in the last five years” and that “The local authority’s spending on notepads, staples, and sticky notes totalled £1,155,807 in 2014/15, £956,613 in 2015/16, £1,006,737 in 2016/17, £1,109,381 in 2017/18, and £1,039,523 between 2018 and 2019.” It also included a comment from a Council spokesperson which said “This spending is not about pens, but every bill and statement, every letter, every envelope and every drop of printer ink used to support the delivery of universal services to more than 600,000 people over five years.”

3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Revealed: The millions of pounds Glasgow City Council spends on stationery”.

4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. It said that whilst the publication had made a Freedom of Information request, this had been for all stationary expenditure, and it had not requested a breakdown of the spending. The complainant said, and provided emails to demonstrate, that when the information had been passed to the publication, it had been advised that the spending was overwhelmingly on paper products. The complainant said it was therefore misleading to report that the spending had been on “on pens, pencils, and paper-clips” and “on notepads, staples, and sticky notes”.

5. The publication said that the reporter was simply using those examples as illustrative of the types of stationary items the money would be spent on. It said it had not received a breakdown, and therefore could not be specific about what the budget had been used for. It also noted that as the Council’s comment had been included within the article, it was clear to the reader that the spending was on stationary in general.

Relevant Code Provisions

6. 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.

Mediated Outcome

7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

8. The publication offered to amend the article to make clear that they did not have a breakdown of the information, and include paper as one of the items bought. It also offered to publish the following correction in print and online:

We have been asked to clarify that these breakdown lists were not based on any information released by the council – and that the Glasgow Times did not request any breakdown of the spending. The £5 million figure was for spending on stationery as a whole, which would include spending on paper for essential bills and letters.

9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

10. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

 

Date complaint received: 13/04/2020

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 26/05/2020

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