Thursday, 18 July 2013

Could the end to wasteful council advertising be in sight?

It looks like the end of wasteful council advertising in local newspapers might be in sight. A Lib Dem initiative which could save Cornwall Council up to £360,000 each year has found favour with Eric Pickles.

The spending in question is on statutory planning, licensing and highways advertising in local newspapers. Many bits of the council's business have to be advertised in local newspapers in a prescribed format. That format is pretty boring and isn't really designed to draw readers in. In my opinion it is money very badly spent, but the council has no choice over it.

Now Lib Dem member of the House of Lords Graham Tope has proposed an end to the requirement to advertise in newspapers and says that councils should instead have to publicise the notices in any way the council “thinks is likely to bring it to the attention of persons who live in its area”. That might include on the council's own website and through One Stop Shops.

In response, Local Government Minister Eric Pickles has apparently told Conservative councillors that he is open to the idea and the requirement might end in as little as two years.

Cornwall Council currently spends £363,000 each year on adverts in local newspapers, with the majority being on these statutory adverts. If the legal requirement was withdrawn then the authority could decide what sort of advertising was proper value for money and on what occasions using local newspapers was the best way of reaching the desired audience.

Local newspapers are a very valuable way of reaching some of the residents of Cornwall and there is no doubt that the council will want to maintain a strong relationship with them. But relaxing the rules which require wasteful spending will mean we can save taxpayers money and potentially do more in partnership with local papers on schemes that actually work.

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