You may recall that back in December we singled out publicity budgets as one area of council spending packed with savings just waiting to be made. The average council spends almost £1 million on publicity, with huge amounts going on local newspaper adverts and those glossy propaganda newsletters that everyone throws away as soon as they come through your letter box.
Hammersmith and Fulham, who have recently announced yet another 3% cut in council tax, much to the relief of hard-pressed taxpayers, are leading the way on making savings on publicity. In just one year they achieved savings of 35%, an example which other councils would do well to follow.
Their latest idea is using YouTube to publicise their activities - producing this video:
Now whether you're a Status Quo fan or not, this is a great move - let's look at the figures.
- The video cost £500 to make, and is hosted for free on YouTube. That is only half the price of a quarter page advert in their local newspaper (which has a circulation of only a few thousand).
- It's been viewed online by 4,600 people already, and it was reported in a half-page article in the Evening Standard (circulation 300,000).
It is exactly this kind of original, innovative thinking that allows Hammersmith and Fulham to make massive savings from unnecessary expenditure. They are relieving the burden of council tax on local residents and achieving 4-Star status from the Audit Commission at the same time.
We should all be urging our councils to follow H&F's example - they prove that it can be done, irrespective of the settlement provided by central government, and that there is hope for local government.
Councils have to realise that simply blaming Westminster for all their ills (and Westminster has indeed managed things badly) is no solution. If the Government won't help, it is down to councils to knock themselves into shape. Don't get mad, get even.