Advertising Standards Authority says Council's cuts posters were intended "to affect voters taking part in the democratic process"
There'll be red faces at Bernard Weatherill House today - the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has just holed officers' attempts to claim the Council's cuts posters aren't partisan below the waterline.
Their position had already been underlined by the Leader of the Council boasting to me on Twitter that the purpose of the cuts was:
"to highlight Government cuts to Croydon you voted for".
Sounds like a clear attempt to influence the result of the General Election. And now the ASA have removed any doubt.
We had written to them because the Council's ad is misleading - the Government hasn't announced funding for Croydon Council beyond next year so how can it possibly claim its grant is being cut by £100 million over the next three years?
But the ASA has refused to rule on our complaint saying it is beyond their remit because the clear intention of the poster was:
"to affect voters taking part in the democratic process".
I've included their full response below. It looks like Croydon Council is now going to have to register with the Electoral Commission as a third party in this election. The District Auditor will no doubt want to look into the more than £20,000 spent on these posters.
Thank you for contacting the ASA.
I have assessed the ad you provided and unfortunately because the ASA is a self-regulatory body we have been advised that, under the freedom of speech provisions in the Human Rights Act 1998, we are unable to regulate ads that intend to affect voters taking part in the democratic process. As such the Code has since contained the following rule, removing such material from our remit.
The rule in the CAP Code is 7.1:
"Claims in marketing communications, whenever published or distributed, whose principal function is to influence voters in a local, regional, national or international election or referendum are exempt from the Code".
Given this, I’m afraid we can’t pursue your complaint further at this time. I would suggest contacting Croydon Council directly with your concerns.
I’m very sorry we are unable to help on this occasion, but thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with us.
Direct line 020 7492 2163