Essex: Thousands spent on council newspapers despite economic climate
06:00 12 November 2012
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SPENDING on council-run newspapers in Essex has hit £1.18million since the economic downturn, new figures reveal.
The outlay included Essex County Council (ECC) paying out more than £500,000 in just one year to produce six copies of Essex Works.
But the authority has since drastically cut such spending – like several other Essex councils – by making the publication online-only.
It spent £812,000 between April 2009 and March this year, with outlay falling from £526,000 in 2009/10 to £55,000 in 2011/12.
Chelmsford was one of the only councils in north and mid Essex to maintain spending on its own newspaper, with the £44,000 outlay in the last financial year matching its expenditure in 2009/10.
Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “At a time when councils are having to take tough decisions about where to find savings, the last thing they should be doing is spending exorbitant amounts of taxpayers’ cash on these expensive propaganda rags.
“Of course people need to be told which day their rubbish is being collected, but no-one ever asked for these taxpayer-funded newspapers and magazines which often go unread in any case.
“There are plenty of ways in which residents can find out what’s going on in their area.”
Of the other district councils in north Essex, Tendring and Colchester both stopped printing their own newspapers in 2010, while Braintree cut spending from nearly £43,000 in 2009/10 to £9,800 in 2011/12.
A spokeswoman for ECC said: “The council is always looking to ensure the best methods of communications are used to keep residents informed and engaged with our work, while being mindful of the cost.
“The decision to move Essex Works to an online publication is in-line with the authority’s policy to reduce the cost of printed materials.
“By moving online the costs have come down considerably. However, even three years ago when every household in Essex received a copy it was still only 90p per house for the year.”
A spokesman for Chelmsford City Council said: “Whilst other local districts in Essex have been forced to make tough decisions, Chelmsford City Council has made efficiency savings through a reduction in senior management levels to protect important service delivery.
“The council has a duty to inform its residents on all forms of service delivery, demonstrating how council tax is spent to improve the quality of the area for residents and visitors alike.
“The civic newspaper serves this purpose, reaching every property within the borough limits either in print or through electronic copy, highlighting the stories and information relevant to those who live in Chelmsford.”