It is perhaps natural, given the background of Labour council leader Leonora Thompson, that Ealing is currently ramping up its spending on communications. Instead of spending some Â£40,000 per annum on Around Ealing 4 times a year the whole thing is being upgraded to a monthly, even bi-weekly, publication that will cost almost Â£600,000 over two years.
To time this upgrade at the start of the year, a few months before local elections on May 4th, leaves the council open to the charge that it is using council spending in a political way.
The council’s plans envisage that the costs incurred will be partially offset by an increase in advertising revenue. The plans foresee advertising revenue rising from Â£19,500 to Â£185,000 in year. This raises two questions. Firstly, even the most aggressive private sector operation would be hard pressed to increase sales in this way. Can the council really hope to perform this well? Wishful thinking surely? Secondly, by taking revenue off local press the council will ensure that the papers have less cash to pay journalists’ salaries and we will be the poorer for not having the council held to account by the press.
Apparently Â£275,500 of this spending is going to be financed from the Response budget. You might think that this money could be re-deployed to fund frontline services rather then being used to puff the council. Using Response as a slush fund to subsidise political advertising is not a council taxpayers’ priority.
Council leader Leonara Thomson obviously thinks that if she spends enough of our money telling us how good Ealing council is we will eventually believe her.