Tomorrow will be a defining moment for journalism in Wales.  

Members of the Senedd are set to scrutinise the Local Government Finance (Wales) Bill, including a provision which could have highly damaging consequences for local democratic engagement.  

At the moment, local authorities are legally required to publish public notices – important announcements about things such planning, traffic and council tax changes – in printed local newspapers.  

This ensures that critical local matters are given a proper public airing and receive robust scrutiny.  

Councils are of course free to publish public notices in other ways – on social platforms, on their own websites, mailouts to residents’ homes, and in notices posted near the areas where the change is taking place.   

But, critically, publishing in local papers ensures transparency through a trusted and independent medium.  

It’s no secret that newspapers’ print circulations have been declining. But many millions of people across the UK still read local papers in print, with tens of millions more reading online, and rely on them for public notices.  

In fact, public polling conducted in March this year shows that local news media in print and digital (41 per cent) is the number one platform used by the UK public to view public notices, ahead of local authority websites (29 per cent), social media (28 per cent) and printed mailouts (26 per cent).  

And, out of the four UK nations, Wales (47 per cent) has the highest number of people using local news media to view public notices.  

As it stands, the Local Government Finance (Wales) Bill would remove the statutory requirement on local authorities to publish council tax notices – an important category of public notice which informs people about changes to their council taxes - in printed local newspapers. 

The Welsh government has suggested that individual notices and tax bills sent directly to households will provide adequate transparency.  

Yet research shows that only 13 per cent of people in Wales – by far the lowest out of the four UK nations and half the UK average - view notices in this way.  

Wales is therefore at a much higher risk of democratic deficit than the other UK nations. Printed mailouts are no substitute for the trusted context and scrutiny which a newspaper provides.