Council magazines funded by taxpayer 'electioneering' and 'Tory propaganda' opposition groups claim
PUBLISHED: 13:16 22 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:32 25 February 2019
Two Suffolk councils have dismissed claims a magazine highlighting work in the last four years is "Tory propaganda" paid for by taxpayers in the run up to the elections.
Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils issued ‘Your Council’ this month to all homes in the districts. The magazine highlights success stories, reports progress and keeps homes informed of what work the authorities are doing.
The councils claim the magazines were sent to sum up the four years of work before a new council is elected, and follows on from a previous ‘end of term’ report published online in 2015 but not widely circulated.
But opposition councillors have said it was published in the run up to May as election material, funded by the taxpayer and containing largely Conservative administration successes.
In an open letter to Mid Suffolk homes on behalf of his party, Green councillor John Matthissen said: “This pretends to be a report of the last four years work of the council but is in fact a thinly disguised early election leaflet from the local Conservative party, which you have paid for through your council tax.
“The many glossy pictures show exclusively Conservative members of the council, and illustrate projects that were worked on by a large number of council staff, without once acknowledging their commitment or featuring them in any of the photos.
“The Conservatives also claim credit for projects that have not yet been started, as well as some where the council has been only peripherally involved at best.
“Perhaps most misleading is their omission of the major problems caused by the Conservatives themselves, such as the thousands of unwelcome planning permissions, the cost of appeals and the expensive loss of many experienced staff when an HQ move to Ipswich was imposed.”
Babergh Labour councillor Luke Cresswell said that it was “Tory propaganda”.
“This magazine is biased and glosses over the failures of the council. It fails to recognise the appropriate councillors for their hard work and just heaps false praise on incompetent Tory councillors,” he said.
“Any such magazine should have been sent after the elections when it wouldn’t have interfered with our democratic process and it may have been useful as residents could see the new representatives and their details.”
However, a spokesman for the two councils said every councillor had been given an opportunity to contribute to the publications, which came in response to a survey of more than 4,000 homes last year in which 53% said they wanted more council communication by post.
“Both Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils have ongoing and varied programmes of sharing information with residents,” the spokesman said.
“This includes producing a report at the end of council term – the last one was in 2015.
“We’ve done the same thing this year, but have responded to research which showed that most of our residents wanted to receive information in a newsletter format.
“The response we’ve received so far has been positive and confirms this approach.
“In the past four years, Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils have created more affordable homes, invested millions of pounds in community facilities and worked to make our streets clean, tidy and safe. We think it’s important that people know what their council has done for them.”
The magazines work out at a cost of 32p per household to create and post, according to the council, with a local printing firm used to help support the local economy.
The council said it had received more than 180 responses to date on its survey, where 57% said they wanted information by post, and 71% saying it was easy to read and informative.