Editors of news media titles in Wales have warned of the harmful consequences for local democratic engagement if the Welsh government presses ahead with plans to remove council tax notices from printed local newspapers. If enacted, the proposal in the Local Government Finance (Wales) Bill could trigger the removal of other types of public notices from local papers, leaving huge swathes of the population disenfranchised, editors have warned ahead of a Local Government and Housing Committee debate on the legislation on Thursday. Members of the Senedd from across the political spectrum have also expressed grave concerns about the issue with an amendment to keep council tax notices in printed newspapers tabled by Welsh Conservative Peter Fox MS and a statement of opinion supporting the provision of council tax notices in local papers tabled by Welsh Labour Mike Hedges MS gaining support from Labour Members and other parties. Independent research and the Welsh government’s own impact assessment for the Bill show that local papers continue to be a crucial platform for ensuring the public – particularly the elderly, those living in rural areas, and lower-income households – have reliable access to important information. New research from OnePoll has found that, across the UK, local news media in print and digital (41 per cent) remains the number one platform used by the public to view public notices, ahead of local authority websites (29 per cent), social media (28 per cent) and printed mailouts (26 per cent). The survey conducted for the News Media Association in March found that, out of the four UK nations, Wales (47 per cent) has the highest number of people using local news media to view public notices and the lowest number of people using libraries (six per cent) - an alternative to local papers proposed by the Welsh government. Removing council tax notices from printed local newspapers would also deal a hammer blow to local journalism by removing a critical revenue stream from the sector, inevitably leading to title closures and a weakening in the provision of local news. Liz Davies, Tindle Newspapers regional editor said: “All the evidence shows that print local newspapers continue to be a critical platform for people to find public notices. Removing the legal requirement on councils to advertise these notices in local papers would lead to huge swathes of the population being unable to access vital information which may have a profound impact upon their lives. “The local news sector across the UK is watching developments in Wales with increasing concern. It is not too late for the Welsh government to change course by striking out this dangerous provision from the Bill and we strongly urge them to do so immediately.” Gavin Thompson, Newsquest regional editor, Wales, said: “The Welsh government has shown its support for local journalism in the past and must do so again by abandoning this dangerous plan which will wreak havoc on local news provision in Wales.” The industry has set up the Public Notice Portal to increase the reach of public notices by harnessing local news media’s huge digital audiences while ensuring everyone – including the digitally excluded and more vulnerable in society - can still access notices in their printed local newspaper. Wales Online acting editor David James said: “We do not believe that the Welsh government intends to deal a hammer blow to local journalism yet that is exactly what will happen if council tax notices are removed from local papers. “The consequences of this will be straightforward – weaker democratic engagement and weaker provision of local news in Wales.” Cambrian News editor Mick O’Reilly said: “The legal requirement to advertise public notices in local papers creates consistency of access to information and local government transparency across different areas. “Removing this would create a postcode lottery with people penalised depending on where they live. This would be a completely unacceptable outcome for people Wales and not what the Welsh government intended when this Bill was drafted.”