Issue - meetings
Keeping Residents Informed
Attached to the agenda are:
· Call-in procedure (page 1)
· Call-in form (pages 3 – 5)
· Cabinet Report of 27 June, 2016 (pages 7 – 24)
· Cabinet minute 20 (pages 25 – 26)
- Cabinet Minute 20 Call-in, item 17 PDF 55 KB
- Cabinet Report - Keeping Residents Informed (27 June 2016), item 17 PDF 149 KB
- Publicity Code (Code of recommended practice on LA publicity), 27/06/2016 Cabinet, item 17 PDF 141 KB
- Cabinet Minute 20, item 17 PDF 54 KB
In accordance with the procedure agreed by Council on 27 June, 2016, the Chair referred to the decision of Cabinet (minute 20 (27 June, 2016) refers) relating to a proposed monthly Council publication containing community and public service information.
The decision had been called in by Councillors Jeff Green, Ian Lewis, Tom Anderson, Bruce Berry, Chris Blakeley, Eddie Boult, David Burgess-Joyce, Wendy Clements, David Elderton, Gerry Ellis, John Hale, Paul Hayes, Andrew Hodson, Kathy Hodson, Tracey Pilgrim, Cherry Povall, Lesley Rennie, Les Rowlands, Adam Sykes, Geoffrey Watt and Steve Williams, on the following grounds –
‘To date the Secretary of State has issued Directions under section 4A of the Local Government Act 1986 to 11 Councils relating to Council publications. All 11 Directions have included references to the contravention of frequency of publication specifically: “where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, newssheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more than quarterly.”
The Royal Borough of Greenwich has spent £48,000 in legal fees defending its publication ‘Greenwich Times’ which the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) argued contravened the Recommended Code of Practice for Local Authority Publicity. The Greenwich Times was published for the last time by Greenwich Council on 28th June 2016 following an agreement with the DCLG to abide by the Code of Practice for Local Authority Publicity. We believe it is a costly miscalculation for the Labour Cabinet to believe it is somehow above Government guidance.
Within the Cabinet report and at the subsequent Cabinet meeting there was absolutely no consideration given to the variety of successful community publications that operate across Wirral. We believe this shows a complete disregard for the years of hard work that a great number of community activists have given to Wirral and jeopardises the invaluable goodwill that the Council relies upon to deliver its significant community engagement agenda.
We believe this is not the time for novices to the newspaper industry to be launching a new print title. Wirral has two established, free, independent newspaper titles the Wirral News - circulation 28,095 copies and Wirral Globe total circulation 97,368 copies (71% of households). The Labour Administration cannot control what these papers print and we are concerned that this may be the driving force behind the creation of this Town Hall Pravda.
The Government has shown it is committed to ensuring that the independent free press does not face unfair competition from municipal publications. We believe Cabinet’s disregard for the Recommended Code of Practice for Local Authority Publicity is tantamount to Labour playing fast and loose with Council Taxpayers money.’
The Chair then invited the lead signatory to address the Committee for up to five minutes
Explanation of Call-in by the Lead Signatory – Councillor Jeff Green
Councillor Green acknowledged that the Council should indeed be keeping residents informed and was delighted with the efforts made to do this through its website and social media. He expressed surprise that the local Messenger publications had only been consulted after Cabinet ... view the full minutes text for item 17
Meeting: 27/06/2016 - Cabinet (Item 20)
Councillor Matthew Patrick introduced a report by the Senior Manager: Communications and Marketing, which proposed that the Council launch a publication, containing community and public service information, which would be distributed to every household and every business within the Borough on a monthly basis. The Cabinet considered the report and the obligations arising under the Recommended Code of practice for Local Authority Publicity appended to the report at Appendix 1. The report recognised that the frequency of the publication was not in accordance with the Code but the publication would be compliant in all other respects. The report set out the rationale and reasons for why departure from the Code in respect of frequency of publication was considered reasonable and justified.
The Cabinet was informed this proposal was a direct response to the findings of the Wirral Residents’ Survey in 2015 (included in Reference Material of the Report); one of the key findings of which was that Wirral residents did not feel well informed about services and information in their area. Councillor Patrick informed that six out of ten people had reported that they were not well informed about what the Council was doing and what it provided.
The publication would be funded through consolidating a proportion of the Council’s current advertising spend and accepting advertising which, combined, would allow the Council to significantly improve its ability to communicate with all residents whilst making cumulative savings on existing advertising costs. Councillor Patrick informed that his initiative meant the Council would be spending in a more intelligent way.
Therefore, the Cabinet noted that no ‘new’ expenditure would be incurred through the development of this community newsletter: it would be funded entirely through consolidating and making better use of existing, required spend.
Councillor Phil Davies informed that the aim of the initiative was to provide relevant information on the Council’s Services and on community events and activities which would significantly help residents feel more informed about services and information in their area. An additional opportunity also arose for additional income to be generated.
(1) the approach for developing a monthly publication, distributed to every household and business in the borough as set out in the report be approved;
(2) the projected financial savings associated with this project, outlined for the Cabinet in section four of the report be noted; and
(3) Officers be authorised to take all necessary steps, including requisite procurement exercises, in order to progress the proposal for a monthly publication as outlined in the report with a view to delivering the first edition in late autumn 2016.