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Council scraps plans for £300,000 newsletter

The decision to abandon plans for a new fortnightly council newsletter costing £300,000 per year is a “victory for the local media”.

Thurrock Council in Essex has been investigating the possibility of starting the newspaper for several months as part of a wider communications strategy but it was thrown out after its leader admitted there was “no business case” for it.

Thurrock Gazette editor Steve Lewis said he hoped the decision by the local authority would show other councils that tax-payer funded newsletters would not work.

“Clearly this is a victory for the local media and for the many taxpayers who voiced their opposition to this,” he said.

“I don’t really feel any great delight though because quite frankly this should never have got this far and has wasted a lot of people a lot of time and money.

“What I do hope is that this sends a message to other local authorities that may be considering this sort of thing that they just won’t work.

“I hope it serves to strengthen the position of local newspapers and local journalists across the country.”

The report into the proposed newsletter stated: “If the council produced a stand alone fortnightly newspaper, the likely costs would be in the region of £300,000.

“The concept would only be proposed on the basis of these costs being substantially or totally met by redirecting external advertising spend, ensuring we produce at nil or low cost to the council.”

That same report also estimated that annual salaries for an editor, designer and ad manager would be around £115,000 per year.

Thurrock Council leader Coun Garry Hague told a scrutiny committee meeting: “We are looking to save money on communications, so anything we do will have to be done within our budget.

“I don’t think we can make a case for a fortnightly publication, it’s not something we will be pursuing.”