Thursday, 17 March 2011

Why does Cornwall council have to run wordy and expensive adverts in local papers?

There's an excellent article in PR week by Peter Holt of Bristol Council arguing against the legal requirement for councils to run those horrendously long and expensive adverts in local papers which are filled with impenetrable jargon.

You can find the whole article here, but here's a taster:

We still have to pay for full page adverts on page 40 or 50 of the local paper, lodged between the premium line adverts (Flirt now – fun live chat – choose from ‘domination’, ‘mature’ or ‘fetish’ lines – only 60p per minute from a BT landline).

Not just full page statutory notices, but made up of endless paragraphs of impenetrable legalese. Not a single map or artist’s impression in sight, and plain English ruled out by statute too.

Seriously Mr Pickles, seriously? Previous Governments haven’t grasped this nettle before you, but will you? Wouldn’t it make the oft-quoted Mrs Pickles ever-so proud?

A hefty six figures sum in my Council area alone. Repeated across the whole country, this is many, many millions of pounds of tax-payers’ money wasted.

I don’t want a single local paper to go out of business – least of all in my city.

But if the Government is going to be serious about us all living in the modern age and cutting out waste, especially in frothy areas like council advertising, can we either have some action, or at least a little more up-front plain speaking about this scarcely-hidden, legally-enforced subsidy to newspaper barons?

From my point of view, I think it is right that our council should make sure local residents are informed about local planning and highways issues. The bit that needs changing is the prescriptive and legalistic way the adverts have to be written. What's wrong with putting them in plain English or even including the odd map or diagram? I'm not against spending money to make sure people know what's going on. I am against having to do so in a way that no one can read or understand.

Hat tip to Mark Pack at Lib Dem Voice.

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