Sun won’t rise on council news

Sunrise is being scrapped and the council will now focus on its Community News publications.
Sunrise is being scrapped and the council will now focus on its Community News publications.
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SUNDERLAND City Council has scrapped its city-wide community magazine.

The end for Sunrise, which has had 21 editions since it began in 2005, means the authority has slashed the number of publications it puts through city letterboxes.

It is believed the move will save about £140,000, and it signals the end to a long-running political row at the Civic Centre.

Sunderland’s Conservative Group has now voted to end its year-long boycott of the council’s Community News publications, which were targeted at specific parts of the city and have been produced by the Echo.

The change of heart means Tory councillors contact details will now appear in the publications, and they will take part in the editorial process by suggesting story ideas relating to their wards.

Group Leader Coun Tony Morrissey said: “In 2010, the council determined that in addition to the existing Sunrise magazine, which was delivered several times a year, they would also set up the new area-based Community News.

“We thought this was an unnecessary, unwanted and costly exercise and refused to co-operate in it.

“We believe the council’s decision this year to abolish the Sunrise publication, of which there were five issues in 2010, and rely solely on Community News – three editions in 2010, four planned this year – vindicates our stance.

“The number of publications will drop from eight to four and the cost will almost halve – from £290,000 to £150,000.”

Council leader Paul Watson said: “Community News is about giving residents more information and news that they can use in their area.

“It includes details of council services, community and voluntary groups, information about what’s on locally and how to access funds such as Community Chest.

“I’m delighted that these opposition councillors are now taking part.

“A majority of residents asked about Community News said they had found it useful, and seven-out-10 said it had been good value at 17p per copy.

“I had asked the council’s communications team to look again at their costs. The team has done that and, so for me, it’s a win-win situation all round.”

However, Coun Morrissey, who represents Barnes, added: “While we will now participate in the publication and appreciate that some people find it useful, we remain concerned that surveys show that only about 20 per cent of the population name it as a source of information.

“As our digital connectivity increases we might expect that figure to drop further, to the point where we need to ask whether an untargeted newsletter is a cost-effective and environmentally responsible way of getting information to residents.”

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