Today I found myself in a small discussion on Twitter with Lincolnshire County Council (or their comms people at least), about the Council newspaper, County News.
On Wednesday this week I received the latest copy of the County News, and found several news articles promoting sitting councillors. This newspaper is entirely funded by the taxpayer, effectively subsidising political messaging for the local Conservative Party. This sort of blatant waste of taxpayer’s cash makes my blood boil, so I fired off a tweet to Lincolnshire County Council. Below is the reply I received today:
So according to @LincolnshireCC only Executive members are featured in their role of explaining LCC policy. But this does not explain the presence of Cllr. Richard Davies in a two page spread about the Market Place developments, or the promotion of Cllr. Adam Stokes basically reading out his election campaign material, both of which are not executive members. As you can see above, I replied to the council about the presence of Cllr. Davies and got this response:
So in the space of two tweets, Lincolnshire County Council backtrack from saying that only Executive members are featured, to rationalising why Cllr. Davies is in the issue. Also in this tweet the council highlight that they cannot ask officers to front policies as they do not set them, however in the offending copy of County News we see the following picture:
So I left the conversation with the following tweets:
It is my opinion that the County News and the district equivalent, SKToday are merely vehicles for self promotion where taxpayer’s money is being used to fund political messages from sitting councillors. These are councillors that already receive allowances and expenses, who already have the profile within the community to get their message heard, to demonstrate their ability to make a difference.
These papers are delivered free of charge to every household in the county. This is thousands of pounds of expenditure that could be better invested in delivering important projects to deliver better services and improved economic prospects. It is clear from the exchange above that Lincolnshire County Council is not prepared to accept that it may be funding political messages, by preferring to rationalise the editorial decisions made.
Change is desperately needed at County level. The right choices need to be made on how the taxpayer’s money is spent. The right decisions on savings need to be made, and I believe that the County News can be one of those savings.