Sunday, 30 December 2007

Hartlepool Council PR Bill rises 201% in 9 years

Council taxes have doubled over ten years but there is still (supposedly) not enough money to run local services. Freedom of Information Act figures for local authorities in the UK show that in 1996/97 Hartlepool spent £428,169 on publicity. Nine years latter that had grown to £1,292,000, an increase of 201.8%. Could this be just one example where too much of the extra money didn’t actually go towards improving crumbling services? In today’s spin lead environment maybe glossy newsletters, costly advertising and PR are valued above policing, refuse collection and other things which actually improve quality of life for ordinary people.

The only North East Council with a bigger percentage increase was Tynedale which spent £21,000 a decade ago and £80,000 in 2006/07, an increase of 281.0%. However, also note these figures are for 10 years. Hartlepool’s 200% plus growth was only over 9 years.

Tynedale are the 39th smallest local authority but their total spending was the 20th lowest. Tynedale therefore actually spent less per head of population than some much bigger authorities. Hartlepool reversed this position. Hartlepool is the 131st smallest authority but the 116th highest spender on publicity. Hartlepool managed to spend considerably more per head of population than some much bigger local authorities.

There should be one priority at local level. Delivering front line services in a cost effective manner. Self-congratulatory magazines telling people how wonderful their Council is and press releases that no-one reads should not be allowed to take vital cash away from services people really need.

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