Council Spending Uncovered: Councils spend average of £1 million a year on publicity

December 11, 2008 11:01 PM

  • Average council spending on publicity rises to £971,985
  • Total Town Hall publicity bill £430 million
  • The average local authority spent twice the amount on publicity than it did in 1996-97

In December 2007, the TaxPayers’ Alliance produced the first ever examination of the growth of town hall spending on publicity over the last decade, which is itemised in the annual accounts of the 450-plus local authorities in the UK.  It found that councils had doubled their spending on publicity, creating a £450 million publicity machine, at the same time as doubling council tax.  A year later, in the midst of the economic crisis, the first paper in the new Council Spending Uncovered series updates the data for the last financial year, with information on every local authority. To read the full report, please click here (PDF).

Councils are required by Part II, Section 5 of the Local Government Act 1986 to “keep a separate account of their expenditure on publicity”.  Publicity is defined by the Act as “any communication, in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or to a section of the public”.

Key Findings: 

  • The average local authority spends almost £1 million (£971,985) on publicity. 
  • The total local authority publicity bill is now over £430 million.
  • The average local authority is spending twice the amount on publicity than it did in 1996-97:
  1. -In 1996-97, the average local authority spent £429,887 on publicity;
  2. -In 2006-07, the average local authority spent £954,023 on publicity;
  3. -In 2007-08, the average local authority spent £971,985 on publicity.
  • There are 6 local authorities spending more than £5 million on publicity.
  • There are 69 local authorities spending more than £2 million on publicity.
  • There are 133 local authorities spending more than £1 million on publicity.
  • At least 225 councils have increased their spending on publicity since the 2006-07 financial year.
  • The 20 councils spending the most money on publicity accumulated an over £100 million bill.
  • There is one local authority, Birmingham City Council, that spent more than £9 million on publicity.
  • However, at least 217 councils have decreased spending on publicity, collectively cutting over £25 million from their budgets and proving that councils can cut unnecessary spending.
  • The top 20 councils to cut publicity spending in real terms saved taxpayers nearly £13 million versus last year.
Read the full report here (PDF). 

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance said:

"It is incredibly disappointing that, despite the economic downturn and the loss of millions in Icelandic Banks, local authorities are still spending nearly half a billion pounds a year on publicity. Whilst we salute the 217 councils who have cut spending on publicity, the 225 councils who have increased spending should hang their heads in shame. In the middle of a recession, councils need to cut back on propaganda and spin doctors and deliver savings to taxpayers."

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