Southwark Council have had a nightmare couple of weeks. Last week they admitted that almost every single one of their departments had gone over budget and predicted above-inflation council tax rises for the foreseeable future. After that bad news, this week the TPA's first Council Spending Uncovered paper revealed that they spend £5million a year on publicity.
Whilst the Council obviously has serious problems in its policies and management, it is encouraging that they resisted the temptation to deny the publicity figure, or to claim the spending was justified (unlike some other councils, but more on those disgraceful examples in later posts). Today's South London Press reports that:
Councillor Toby Eckersley, executive member for finance, said he was calling for a review on the publicity spending.
He said: "In light of this, all areas of discretionary expenditure need to be looked at very closely."
If a review is being launched, and they genuinely have taken on board the urgent need to cut out their unnecessary expenditure, this is good news. TPA doesn't just exist to complain; we raise these concerns about waste because we want things to be put right. I hope that Cllr Eckersley's review goes ahead and finds savings for the hard-pressed taxpayers of Southwark. I'm sure they will thank him for it.
It's an encouraging sign that TPA's research is not just reaching and informing the public, but is helping politicians realise that things must change. The figure for Southwark's publicity spend, which almost equals the amount spent by the GLA, is a shocking one - Cllr Eckersley is to be congratulated for admitting that and, hopefully, deciding to do something about it.