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."
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