Questions over why Sunderland City Council is spending £50,000 on 'another' website

Council chiefs have defended costs spent on the new “My Sunderland” website following questioning by councillors.

Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 10:41 am
Cllr Niall Hodson, Millfield ward representative, questioned why £50,000 had been spent towards the development and maintenance of the council’s ‘My Sunderland’ website.

At the latest meeting of the City Council’s Scrutiny Coordinating Committee, councillors analysed the first revenue budget review for 2021/22.

Cllr Niall Hodson, Millfield ward representative, questioned why £50,000 had been spent under general contingency transfers towards the development and maintenance of the council’s ‘My Sunderland’ website.

The Liberal Democrat councillor said: “The My Sunderland website, I’m struggling a little bit with this one, the council does already have a website and ICT team, there’s a Riverside Sunderland website.

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“£50,000 is not a huge amount of money but paying for another website, and the benefit of this website, I’m not quite sure.”

He also noted My Sunderland is the name of the University of Sunderland’s internal website, meaning the new page does not figure highly on a Google search.

Cllr Hodson continued: “If you search Google for My Sunderland the first 12-15 results are internal Sunderland university pages.

“We’ve spent a significant amount of money making this new website, which is not an obvious name choice for brand development.”

He added in recent years the council has already had websites such as “Make it Sunderland” and “See it, Do it Sunderland” which will have cost additional funds.

Jon Ritchie, executive director of corporate services, said the My Sunderland website will consolidate and bring together several previous websites, while it has also linked to work around improvements to the main council website.

Mr Ritchie said: “The principal behind the new website is the See it, Do it and Make It websites are being consolidated here.

“Also the technology that underpins this will also be used to update, and work has been happening in the background, with the sunderland.gov.uk website.

“Linked to the My Sunderland there’s the whole new clean images that we’ve got, the decisions around that were linked in with comms and leaders from our city partners.”

He added he expects the balance will change overtime to improve the websites showing through search engines.

Mr Ritche also commented on the budget review including £65,000 being spent under general contingency transfers on an “additional communications city brand post”.

He said the post is about “promoting the city” rather than just the council, and involves working with the university, football club, health colleagues and more, linking to the city plan.