THE latest edition of a free council newspaper has been ripped to shreds in the council chamber by a senior councillor who called it ‘a complete waste of money’.

Coun David Williams, leader of the Conservatives on South Lakeland District Council, tore up the publication which features 12-pages of news about the authority.

At a full meeting of the council to discuss its budget, he claimed residents he spoke to ‘didn’t want to read it’ and suggested it be axed as part of an alternative Tory budget devised to offer residents a one per cent reduction in the Council Tax.

“£26,000 is wasted on this….and I’m tearing it up,” said Coun Williams, ripping the paper apart as senior council officers and a full chamber looked on in silence.

But Lib Dem councillor David Ryder hit back calling the action a ‘pointless gesture’ and saying the paper was a ‘good read’ and a ‘good investment’ by the authority.

“Maybe you don’t read South Lakeland News, but it’s a better read than many other things we get. It’s a lot better than some of the other political literature,” said Coun Ryder.

Tory councillor Andrew GardIner suggested the council reduce costs of the publication by putting it online. “Think of the trees you would save,” he said. "That would show people we understand they struggle and the extra pounds are better in their pockets."

Lib Dem Cabinet member Jonathan Brook said not everyone had access to the internet and that it was important to inform residents about the work of the council.

“It reaches parts of the community other communications can’t reach,” he said.

Coun Ben Berry for the Conservatives said the paper was full of ‘shameless self-promotion’ for the ruling Lib Dems and that residents would prefer the money.

“We’ve had savage cuts from central government yet this council has put forward a nought per cent increase in the Council Tax - an increase that plainly demonstrates how fat this council became in the good years,” he said.

Coun David Evans for the Lib Dems pointed out that local businesses advertised in the paper and they were good judges.