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Council attacked after spending £30,000 on ‘one-off’ newsletter

A council has been criticised for spending £30,000 on a one-off newsletter delievered to 119,000 households on its patch.

South Gloucestershire Council has defended is decision to produce the 16-page publication, and hinted further editions may follow.

The authority scrapped its council magazine “years ago”, according to Bristol Live, as a result of budget pressures.

But a spokesperson for the council’s ruling Tory group has told the Bristol Post’s sister website more editions may now be published.

South Glos News

The newsletter cost £14,020 to print the newsletter and another £23,979.58 to deliver, although the council made £7,400 in advertising income – leaving a net cost of £30,599.58, which is around 26p per copy.

The Liberal Democrat group at the council has said it would be calling on the audit committee to look into the decision.

Lib Dem leader Claire Young told Bristol Live: “I couldn’t believe it when the magazine came through my letterbox. Local residents have told me that they thought it was a Conservative Party leaflet, because it featured so many photographs of [council leader] Toby Savage.

“They were angry to realise that they were paying for it out of their council tax. After investigating the matter, we discovered that the cost of the magazine was around £32,000 – the equivalent of the annual council tax bill of 18 households.”

But Ben Burton, the council’s cabinet member for corporate resources, said that referring to the magazine as a Conservative party leaflet “couldn’t be further from the truth.”

He added: “Following the recent elections, South Gloucestershire Council continues to be Conservative-run and so inevitably these members who head up the respective cabinet portfolios are going to be mentioned more so than others. Toby Savage, as leader of the council, and as the former cabinet member for schools, is no exception.

“But for the Lib Dems to suggest this is a Conservative publication couldn’t be further from the truth, and they have chosen to ignore the fact that the magazine contains a double page spread featuring all members making up the new council, complete with the wards they represent and their contact details, and work from a number of our public sector partners, including the police.

“In the recent council budget consultation, only 41 per cent of participants said they felt well informed regarding the council’s work and how taxpayers’ money is spent, and so we decided we could and should be doing better. This magazine has proven popular with the public in the past and we look forward to feedback from our residents.”

In its coverage of the row, Bristol Live added: “A Conservative group spokesperson has also said the magazine may not be a one-off publication and there is potential for further editions to be published.

“However, how many editions and how frequently has yet to be decided and the future costs are currently unknown.”

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  • July 3, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    If the 26p publication has important information for residents, I’d say it’s pretty cost effective and will reach everyone, whereas local news is dead. How else can a council do it?

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