Council could save enough money to build 2,180 homes or employ 3,000 care workers if the requirement to advertise planning notices in local newspapers was scrapped.
That claim has come from the Local Government Association, which said the notices cost councils £40m a year, equivalent to 8% of the newspaper industry’s profits.
The LGA said councils could instead place the information on their websites at minimal cost.
Chairman Baroness Eaton (Con), left, said: “The government has already instructed town halls to save money by advertising job vacancies online rather than in the press.
“It is contradictory to then force councils to continue the expensive and unnecessary practice of paying millions of pounds per year to advertise planning notices.”
Camden LBC saved 80% of its advertisement bill when it was exempted from the local advertising requirement for planning notices in a 2004 pilot, which has continued.
Nicola Aiken (Con), cabinet member for children and young people at Westminster City Council, challenged communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles on the issue when he spoke in west London last week.
But he told her: “This is not about saving money but about a free press and securing our democracy.”
David Holdstock, chair of LGcomms, which represents council communication officers, said: “We’d like to see councils given the opportunity to place adverts on their own website, which could result huge savings.”
But the media trade association the Newspaper Society said both the previous UK government and the Scottish Government had rejected the idea because of concerns about excluding people without internet access.
Communications director Lynne Anderson added: “Removing the requirement for councils to publish statutory planning notices in newspapers would lead to a more secretive, less open local government.”