£60,000 spent on speed camera PR

EXCLUSIVEBy Ted JeoryAN MP has called for greater scrutiny of spending by speed camera bosses after they paid private PR advisers £60,000 to put up posters in toilets, hand out key rings and run marketing campaigns.

EXCLUSIVE

By Ted Jeory

AN MP has called for greater scrutiny of spending by speed camera bosses after they paid private PR advisers £60,000 to put up posters in toilets, hand out key rings and run marketing campaigns.

Simon Burns, Chelmsford West MP, said there needed to be an examination of the decision by Essex Safety Camera Partnership to hire a Diss-based company to manage its publicity, which he claimed was “unsuccessful”.


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An East Anglian Daily Times investigation of the partnership's accounts has revealed Stennik Advertising Ltd was paid almost £60,000 in 2004/5 to promote no-speeding messages.

Although the partnership has access to the media departments at Essex Police and Essex County Council, bosses felt they needed to pay private advisers to do the work.

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As part of a three-year contract with the partnership, Stennik Advertising was ordered to buy “media space” and dream up innovative campaigns to tell the county's motorists about the dangers of speed and the work of the 125 fixed speed and red light cameras.

Among methods used were radio adverts, posters on bus shelters and the backs of buses and also on space above urinals in 11 nightclub toilets, which cost almost £11,000 to hire out for eight weeks.

Cash was also spent on partnership key-rings, carrier bags, pens and car tax disk holders, which were handed out to motorists as a reminder to drive carefully.

But Mr Burns questioned the effectiveness of the campaigns and asked why the partnership could not have done the work in-house.

“I consider myself a fairly average motorist in Essex and I've not seen or heard about any of these campaigns, so they've obviously not been very successful in getting the message across,” he said.

“There needs to be a full evaluation of the value for money we're getting from work like this. I don't understand why when the Government runs 'speed kills' campaigns, local partnerships also feel the need to do it.

“I'm also surprised that Essex County Council was not used instead of outsourcing. It just bolsters the impression that these speed camera organisations are left to grow and make money.”

A spokeswoman for the partnership said the campaigns were aimed at keeping the public informed of its work and telling them about speeding and how it endangered lives.

“We like to be in touch with the public and explain our work and listen to what they've got to say,” she said.

“We hand out key-rings and other items so that people are always reminded of our work. They key-rings were chosen as being particularly relevant because they'll always be in the car - they're a valuable reminder.”

She added: “A private company is used because our media team at Essex County Council was not involved in doing campaigns.

“The partnership runs across several organisations, so it was decided to outsource the publicity to the private sector.

“Outsourcing is standard across local authorities and it was done through the county council's best value practices.”

Nick Rawlings, managing director of Stennik Advertising, which also hosts and maintains the partnership's website and designs its letterheads, said: “A lot of the money goes on buying media space.

“We've been looking at new ways of getting messages across and if we want to target young male drivers, then putting up posters above urinals in clubs and bars seems a good idea.

“The results of the experiment have yet to be evaluated so we can't say how successful it's been.”

The latest findings come a month after the EADT exclusively revealed that Essex Police officers raked in more than £500,000 a year in overtime manning the mobile camera operations.

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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