Unwise publicity

I’ve no idea what an appropriate level of expenditure on public relations (PR) is for a council. Having looked at the figures from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, I can see that the level of expenditure by Swindon Borough Council on PR (over £1.4M) seems comparable with other councils of similar size: by whatever statistic is used, Swindon Borough Council’s level of PR expenditure is mid-ranking. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable though. Nor is the council spokesman’s attempt to defend the 15% increase from last year acceptable.

Swindon Borough Council is a major employer which provides a vast range of services to more than 180,000 people. Residents expect us to give information about the services which are available to them, and the help we can provide.

Well, yes, I wouldn’t disagree with any of that, but the council does much the same now as it did a year ago, so why spend so much more telling us about it?

While we are always reviewing our costs and finding ways of doing things for less, there is still a cost.

Spending 15% more is not what many would described as ‘doing things for less’.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance suggestion that most of this is unnecessary nonsense, and shows either a complete lack of understanding about the work of local government, or it’s deliberately misleading.

Err, no. It is consistent with the council’s own figures.

recruitment cost £410,865, promotions cost £391,865, statutory public notices £44,075 and other services, including the council’s communication department, cost £619,507.

Only the recruitment costs and statutory notices seem essential. Promotions and the less than informative ‘other services’ could well contain numerous pointless or overly glossy publications.

The only thing that seems to be deliberately misleading here is the council’s defence of its own publicity.