Sunderland City Council’s £25,000 spend on newsletters

Coun Robert Oliver
Coun Robert Oliver
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CASH-STRAPPED Sunderland City Council spent almost £25,000 on newsletters for Wearsiders.

Three issues of the newspaper-style Community News were sent to residents last year, including information on council services, events and voluntary groups.

The figures, requested under the Freedom of Information Act, showed it cost £24,071.50 to produce the magazines, including design and printing.

About 124,000 copies are produced per issue, in five areas of the city.

The layout has been has been criticised after the council was forced to make £5million more in efficiency savings, which saw 536 workers leave through a severance scheme.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has launched a crackdown on what he called “town hall Pravdas,” since the Coalition Government came into power in 2010.

Sunderland Tories’ leader Councillor Robert Oliver wants to see the amount spent on newsletters cut.

“The Conservative Group has always been in favour of reducing spending on council newsletters, believing that the cost is too high and that political parties should produce and pay for their own” Coun Oliver said.

“These ‘town hall Pravdas’ also damage local newspapers by providing taxpayer-funded competition and often contain articles beneficial to the ruling party, which is detrimental to local democracy.”

Coun Oliver said fewer issues of the newsletters should be published, and the council should instead do more to promote Sunderland’s leisure facilities.

He added: “We would favour a reduced number of newsletters which do more to promote local businesses such as restaurants and shops, as well as advertising events within the city, and say less about the council itself.”

Independent councillor Colin Wakefield, who serves Houghton’s Copt Hill ward, said: “I think there are better uses for that sort of money.

“There have been significant reductions in services at the council and it’s these type of things that have to be looked at first.”

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

“It has five different editions – Coalfield, East, North, West and Washington – and is delivered to more than 120,000 households in the city.

“Each edition includes details of council services, community and voluntary groups, information about ‘what’s on’ and how to access advice and funding.

“Council and other events across our city are also well promoted and highlighted in every edition.”

He added: “Conservative opposition councillors had been boycotting Community News but changed their minds after their previous leader recognised how people found it useful.”

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