Sheffield Council cuts leaflet gets the thumbs down from residents

January 06, 2012 2:00 PM

A month ago we commented on Sheffield City Council's decision to send out  over 230,000 leaflets to residents asking them for ideas on how to save money. The consultation period has now ended, and the BBC is reporting that only 1900 leaflets (0.8%) have been returned. As it cost £21,000 to print these leaflets, this works out at £11 per response. What we don't know is if there were any additional costs, such as postage, which will have pushed the costs much higher. 

At the time we wondered if this was a genuine attempt to engage with the public, or a PR exercise. The new financial year starts in April, and the council must have a budget almost ready. For residents to have a meaningful say in spending decisions, their opinions would have had to be sought much earlier.

Residents have also been contacting BBC Radio Sheffield saying they didn't receive one of the leaflets. If this is true, then it makes the council's decision to print and distribute them even more worthless.

We already have a democratic structure in place for council taxpayers to submit their views, but if councils genuinely want to engage the public more, they can invite suggestions using their website and through local media, such as newspapers and radio. It does not need to spend more money printing glossy leaflets, and certainly not at a time when most of the budget will have been decided.A month ago we commented on Sheffield City Council's decision to send out  over 230,000 leaflets to residents asking them for ideas on how to save money. The consultation period has now ended, and the BBC is reporting that only 1900 leaflets (0.8%) have been returned. As it cost £21,000 to print these leaflets, this works out at £11 per response. What we don't know is if there were any additional costs, such as postage, which will have pushed the costs much higher. 

At the time we wondered if this was a genuine attempt to engage with the public, or a PR exercise. The new financial year starts in April, and the council must have a budget almost ready. For residents to have a meaningful say in spending decisions, their opinions would have had to be sought much earlier.

Residents have also been contacting BBC Radio Sheffield saying they didn't receive one of the leaflets. If this is true, then it makes the council's decision to print and distribute them even more worthless.

We already have a democratic structure in place for council taxpayers to submit their views, but if councils genuinely want to engage the public more, they can invite suggestions using their website and through local media, such as newspapers and radio. It does not need to spend more money printing glossy leaflets, and certainly not at a time when most of the budget will have been decided.

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