Too much taxpayers' cash is still spent on publicity

November 21, 2012 4:01 PM

The London Evening Standard reported last week that councils in the capital spent £23 million on publicity last year, including advertising and publishing free newspapers. Tower Hamlets spent £3.2 million on publicity alone last year, while Kensington and Chelsea also made the list of 11 councils that spent over £1 million.

Local authorities are making necessary spending cuts. That means local politicians must prioritise. Many councils are handling smaller budgets very well, but others need to focus relentlessly on getting value for money on services, not spending it on their own marketing.

Many of the publications produced by these boroughs are wholly unnecessary. Free council newspapers, for example, are aplenty in London. Tower Hamlets, who spent the most of any local authority with a £3.2m bill, has a publication called East End Life. This magazine includes news stories, events in the area and even restaurant reviews. That content can be provided by an independent local press; online bloggers are also doing an increasingly good job of this. Taxpayers shouldn't pick up the bill for it.

It's legitimate for local authorities to inform residents of their own activities, relating to service delivery. But these kinds of publications rarely have anything negative to say about the Council. Scrutinising spending by councils and holding them to account is one of the crucial roles that local papers play, which can be crowded out as a result of the expensive, taxpayer-funded magazines that councils are providing. Taxpayers should also be able to run the rule over how their money is spent, so greater spending transparency is also vital.

Local papers, independent magazines and other media such as internet blogs are extremely successful in keeping Londoners informed about what is happening in their local area. They are becoming more innovative too, making increasingly good use of smartphone technology. That makes such a large publicity bill for taxpayers entirely unjustified.The London Evening Standard reported last week that councils in the capital spent £23 million on publicity last year, including advertising and publishing free newspapers. Tower Hamlets spent £3.2 million on publicity alone last year, while Kensington and Chelsea also made the list of 11 councils that spent over £1 million.

Local authorities are making necessary spending cuts. That means local politicians must prioritise. Many councils are handling smaller budgets very well, but others need to focus relentlessly on getting value for money on services, not spending it on their own marketing.

Many of the publications produced by these boroughs are wholly unnecessary. Free council newspapers, for example, are aplenty in London. Tower Hamlets, who spent the most of any local authority with a £3.2m bill, has a publication called East End Life. This magazine includes news stories, events in the area and even restaurant reviews. That content can be provided by an independent local press; online bloggers are also doing an increasingly good job of this. Taxpayers shouldn't pick up the bill for it.

It's legitimate for local authorities to inform residents of their own activities, relating to service delivery. But these kinds of publications rarely have anything negative to say about the Council. Scrutinising spending by councils and holding them to account is one of the crucial roles that local papers play, which can be crowded out as a result of the expensive, taxpayer-funded magazines that councils are providing. Taxpayers should also be able to run the rule over how their money is spent, so greater spending transparency is also vital.

Local papers, independent magazines and other media such as internet blogs are extremely successful in keeping Londoners informed about what is happening in their local area. They are becoming more innovative too, making increasingly good use of smartphone technology. That makes such a large publicity bill for taxpayers entirely unjustified.

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