In 2010 WalesOnline highlighted the issue of councils publishing free-sheets containing everything from local events and bus timetables to the cronyism of egoistical politicians. Never do these publications provide a critical view of local authorities, such as questioning cases of overspending on nonsensical projects or the negative performance of departments within the authority. WalesOnline revealed that that Welsh Councils spent more than £800,000 on the regular publication of propaganda rags. Unfortunately, it seems the council printing presses are just as busy.
These council propaganda publications are too often in competition to genuine journalism in the local area - the kind of journalism that exposes local council blundering, waste and empowers residents to hold local politicians to account. In the November edition of Cardiff’s Capital Times, it was noted on page three that the Council had appointed a new Chief Executive. Nowhere mention what his targets are and how much he gets paid to do the job, however it does mention how he is happy to take the position moving from his current position in New Zealand. In other words a puff piece designed to big up the new appointee. Surely an interview with a local journalist would have allowed the council to announce this appointment and give residents a better, independent, take on new chiefs priorities
This focus on council spin is played out throughout Wales, with Rhondda Cynon Taff’s (RTC) publication Outlook. On the front page of their last edition the headline is ‘UK GOVERNMENT AUSTERITY MEASURES WILL FORCE COUNCIL TO MAKE MANY ‘TOUGH DECISIONS’. The article attributes all spending cuts to the UK Government's deficit reduction plan and doesn't actually mention that the local authorities in Wales receive their funds directly from the Welsh Government.
Throughout the RTC publication there are again and again, the same old stories of regeneration scheme success. When readers reach page ten though, the reading does become interesting. On page ten a record of payments made to Council members has been published. I am sure the residents of RTC would be more interested in finding out why the council leader, Anthony Christopher, earned £52,213.43 in the 2012-13 financial year from his council role. Of course he has special responsibilities above the normal role of a councillor, but what exactly does he do to earn his money? How many hours does he work? As the leader doesn't appear to publish his diary in Outlook, this is something local residents don’t know.
These propaganda rags are nothing more than a self-indulgent ego boost for local politicians. Taxpayers’ money is spent telling local taxpayers how wonderful the council is. It is about time these publications were scrapped to save taxpayers’ cash and invest the money into front line services.