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Essex: Thousands spent on council newspapers despite economic climate

06:00 12 November 2012

County Hall in Chelmsford

County Hall in Chelmsford

©2010Eastnews Press Agency Ltd/Peter Lawson Eastnews Press Agency Ltd 267 Straight Road Colchester, Essex England + 44 (0) 7721

SPENDING on council-run newspapers in Essex has hit £1.18million since the economic downturn, new figures reveal.

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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.”

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2 comments

  • I read with interest your front page article ‘Councils’ costs fury’ on Monday November 12 but must confess to being a little bemused. The ‘fury’ appears to be directed at expenditure for Essex County Council’s residents’ magazine dating back up to three years ago. As you later point out, the current expenditure has been vastly reduced to just a fraction of this sum. So I would have expected a more objective article praising our efforts to cut costs while still striving to maintain the frontline service the people of Essex deserve, not the slanted version which seems designed to mislead your readers. Essex County Council has always been open with its expenditure and the majority of figures used in the article are old and, indeed, were sent to you following a previous request for information in March 2011. It is extremely important that all councillors engage with residents and keep them informed about how their money is being spent which is why we continue to produce our online magazine – www.essex.gov.ukew CLLR KEVIN BENTLEY Essex County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, recycling and waste

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    Cllr Kevin Bentley, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Waste and Recycling

    Monday, November 12, 2012

  • When I read this story and then Cllr Bentley's opinion that it was "designed to mislead your readers" I came to the conclusion that any newspaper is a rival to yours and that perhaps you think some of the content could be published in your newspapers instead and then paid for by the taxpayer. So in fact I see this article as an attempt to get more business for yourselves, with little concern as to the accuracy of the content of the article.

    Report this comment

    Johnthebap

    Monday, November 12, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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