Council defends decision to spend thousands on magazine

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Cheshire East Council has launched a new magazine which they intend to publish four times a year and deliver to resident's homes.

The quarterly publication called 'The Voice' will be delivered to 170,000 households at a cost of 19p per copy, equating to an annual cost of £129,000 if they go ahead with the plans.

However, the decision to allocate public funds to a Council publication has been criticised, particularly at a time when budgets are stretched, which Council Leader Rachel Bailey acknowledged in her welcoming message in the publication saying "With ever increasing demands, reducing funding and the pressure to deliver more for less".

At the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, 10th October, Councillor D Flude referred to the new Council publication, asking why there had been no cross-party involvement with the development of the publication and questioned its purpose.

She also asked if advertising would be used to help pay for the publication, which could have an impact on other local media. Finally, she felt that the money could have been used more effectively on front line services.

In response to comments on social media about the cost of the new magazine for residents Cheshire East Council has issued the following statement:

Councillor Peter Groves, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for democratic and public engagement, assurance and ICT, said: "The council has not made any commitment to spend £129,000 per annum on the residents' newsletter. The figure of £129,000 has been calculated by others based on the cost of 19p per copy for the newsletter that has been distributed over the last week.

"We state in the newsletter that this is intended to be a quarterly newsletter and I have stated the intention to produce up to four newsletters per year in future years, but no decision has yet been taken. We want to hear the views of residents before making a decision about future editions.

"The total cost of this first newsletter is actually £33,316.00. People have done their own mathematics.

"The communications team is currently working on a high-level business case for funding for the proposal for up to four editions next year, which will be considered by council as part of the budget-setting decision making process. Options to reduce the cost per edition will be considered, such as advertising, changes to distribution methodology and format.

"This business case will be informed by responses to the recent communications survey of residents, feedback from residents on this first edition and other from other sources, such as Acorn research data.

"The cost of the first edition of the newsletter has been met from existing resources. The decision to produce a first newsletter followed discussions about communications strategy between cabinet members and senior officers, prompted not least by the recommendations of the LGA peer review of communications.

"The newsletter was mentioned as part of a report about the LGA peer review to corporate overview and scrutiny committee on August, 1 2017. The committee did request that a draft copy be shared with the committee prior to publication.

"However, as it happened, the calendar of meetings and the final timings of the production schedule for the newsletter did not allow for a draft to be brought to a scrutiny meeting. The draft was shared with scrutiny chairs, prior to publication.

"I would stress that I and others have received numerous compliments about the VoiCE. While there has been some criticism based on cost, which we are addressing as described above, this should not distract from the core purpose of the newsletter – to engage directly with Cheshire East residents to inform them about council services and how to access them."

Do you think Cheshire East Council should allocate £129,000 to publish their own quarterly magazine? Share you own views via the comment box below.

Cheshire East Council


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Julie Lowe
Wednesday 18th October 2017 at 4:28 pm
How much more of OUR money are Cheshire East going to waste before they're brought to book? Having read and subsequently binned my copy I am still no wiser as to how CEC enhance the lives of residents. I would have been far more enlightened had they reported on the investigations into suspended officers, and police investigations into tampered with emissions. Regardless of how they try to sugar coat justifying their existence we are not being fooled. They need to start putting their house in order and stop treating us like idiots.
Wednesday 18th October 2017 at 5:40 pm
When a Council needs a "Cabinet Member" for "democratic and public engagement" and a "Communications Team" it has clearly lost the plot.
Peter Davenport
Wednesday 18th October 2017 at 6:17 pm
Dear All
As a long user of the type of software to produce this magazine, I see that, for the file information, it was produced in house by Ches East. So we are given a cost, probably for the printing etc, but no details of the in house costs setting it up.
Conversely, if this was produced out of house, the cost would be considerable.
On the downloadable file it states that Keith Marriott did the production work. Whether he works for Ches East or not, I doubt if we will ever know.
Peter Evans
Wednesday 18th October 2017 at 6:49 pm
At a time when there is, finally, increasing (but not nearly enough) scrutiny of our beloved CEC, and there is increasing pressure to fund important services that impact citizens (like social care, education etc), they decide to launch a pathetic news-lite (I feel I am too polite and diplomatic sometimes) little rag, that did not even get cross party input or agreement. So, I would conclude that the communications team have zero capacity for PR and an A* in playing blatant own goals. CEC never fail to disappoint me, but they do get better at it.
Bob Bracegirdle
Wednesday 18th October 2017 at 7:18 pm
Surely it could be distributed by email? I'd rather buy £30,000 of books for the Library.
Fiona Doorbar
Thursday 19th October 2017 at 6:04 am
I agree Bob. It is so antiquated sending a mail shot out and very expensive. A link could be provided through Wilmslow or Alderley edge. com possibly (as it is for those interested to read council meeting minutes.) This is just creating more work for the bin men tbh.
Deborah Ascott-Jones
Thursday 19th October 2017 at 7:24 am
I read it with avid anticipation - surely it would throw light on some of the widely reported issues, and maybe even enlighten us to the plan to clean up their act......but no! It was mindless, sugar coated, thinly veiled corporate drivel.

Yet another prime example of Cheshire East wasting (our) money!
Nick Jones
Thursday 19th October 2017 at 10:34 am
Q; What’s £129K ?

There is nothing in this magazine that could not have been posted on the CEC Website, having said that they are very good at hiding pertinent facts on that already.
Well in the Grand scheme of things in CEC, Whilst conducting their ‘Deliberate and systematic’ failures re; Pollution data and its implication to planning decisions CEC were at the same time wasting public funds on a non-independent report to try and show they were in the clear .. NOT !! as it transpires. COST £28K ?
Michael Jones identified his suspension by the Tory group would .. “ Free [him] to speak openly about issues morally wrong in the council” .. He didn’t go on to explain any moral standing admission about awarding Tax payers money in contracts to ‘Core-fit’. COST approx £160 K ?, or his moral standing when with Amanda Morris nee Weston, and other are affiliated to the acquisition / use of MMU Crewe Campus for a commercial purpose
The costly CEC flawed local plan debacle COST £3.7M ? ignoring the public in favour of grabbing ‘New build’ subsidies that were kept off the balance sheet.
The notorious failed financial venture ‘Co-Socious’ to save money on I-T &H-R, COST over £3M +?
I wonder if Rachel Riley still thinks the ‘Negative Portrayal ‘ of CEC is still unfounded ??
We move on; Appointing disbarred directors to run CEC commercial enterprises, Failing to Merge East and West governance silo’s of our small county, Creating ‘Executive Directors’ roles followed by large severance payments. Allowing the PCC to increase the policing precept to then builds an empire employing family friend as Deputy, and ex colleague as Chief of Staff, CEC re-organising into directorates at more cost to become self-funding, Declaring a 4% Council Tax rise - as a saving, A misleading £2.4M loan to ANSA commercial waste disposal enterprise.

A; The true cost is breaching the Trust of the electorate in their actions, and that now needs to be tested at the ballot box.
Richard Nolan
Thursday 19th October 2017 at 10:43 am
Can CEC BE SACKED if they can ,let's get on and DO IT NOW .!!!!###
Pete Taylor
Thursday 19th October 2017 at 5:18 pm
Can anyone advise on the email address of the person at Westminster who is supposed to be looking closely at Cheshire East?
Nick Jones
Friday 20th October 2017 at 10:37 am
@ Pete;
Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP

Department for Communities and Local Government
0303 444 0000
Simon Worthington
Tuesday 24th October 2017 at 10:59 am
Hopefully space will be reserved for reports of arrests, charges and imprisonment of councillors.