Council Spending Uncovered 1: Publicity







With council tax bills having doubled over the last ten years, the TaxPayers' Alliance has launched a new series to review expenditure by local authorities in all corners of the UK and highlight areas of spending that could and should be reduced.


Thczcover0712 The Council Spending Uncovered series challenges the claim that Town Halls are short of money by publishing figures that will allow council taxpayers to decide for themselves whether their local authority is spending their money wisely.  These figures have never previously been compiled in one place because the TPA is the first non-government body to have collected the accounts for all 450-plus councils.


The first paper in the Council Spending Uncovered series examines the increase in town hall spending on publicity over the last decade, which is itemised in the annual accounts of all councils. 


Key findings


    • The average local authority spends almost £1 million (£985,000) on publicity.


  • The average local authority is spending double the amount on publicity than it did in 1996-97:

- Without taking account of inflation the average local authority spent £430,000 on publicity ten years ago.  The average spend today is a 130 per cent increase on that 1996-97 figure. 

- In today’s prices the average local authority spent £550,000 on publicity in 1996-97.  The average spend today is an 80 per cent increase in real terms on a decade ago.

    • The total local authority publicity bill is £450 million.


    • There is one local authority, Birmingham City Council, that spends more than £10 million on publicity.


    • There are 8 local authorities spending more than £5 million on publicity.


    • There are 73 local authorities spending more than £2 million on publicity.


    • There are 141 local authorities spending more than £1 million on publicity.


    • The total spend on publicity is not broken down in a uniform way in the various local authority accounts.  It is possible, however, to identify 44 councils that spend at least £1 million and 4 councils spending at least £2 million on staff recruitment advertising – despite the increased use of websites.  If all local authority accounts provided a full breakdown of publicity spending, the number of councils spending at least £1 million on staff advertising would almost certainly increase.


  • The doubling of average publicity spending per local authority in the last decade is extremelyNottingham_logo_gallery_470x470  disappointing.  There are, however, a number of councils that are actually spending less on publicity than ten years ago. For example:

- Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council spent £669,000 on publicity in 2006-07, down 11 per cent from the £751,000 spent in 1996-97. 

- In 2005-06, however, the council spent £1,030,000 on publicity, meaning that the 1-year fall in spending was 35 per cent. 

- If Hammersmith and Fulham can reduce publicity spending by 35 per cent in one year (in part by allowing advertising by local businesses in council publications) make other efficiency savings and reduce council tax by 3 per cent, then it must be possible for other councils to follow suit. 

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

“It’s important for council taxpayers to see just how their hard-earned money is being spent by town halls.  With council tax doubling in the past decade, it’s extremely disappointing that councils have chosen to double their publicity budgets over the same period.  With the internet cutting the cost of communication, it shouldn’t be difficult for local authorities to find savings in this area and bring council tax down.”

Click for full report:


Download Council Spending Uncovered, No. 1: Publicity (PDF)


Click for regional tables, to be read in conjunction with the full report above:


Download East Midlands Regional Table (PDF)


Download East of England Regional Table (PDF)


Download London Regional Table (PDF)


Download North East Regional Table (PDF)


Download North West Regional Table (PDF)


Download Northern Ireland Regional Table (PDF)


Download Scotland Regional Table (PDF)


Download South East Regional Table (PDF)


Download South West Regional Table (PDF)


Download Wales Regional Table (PDF)


Download West Midlands Regional Table (PDF)


Download Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Table (PDF)

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