Cost of council produced magazine criticised

Lib Dem County Councillor Bob Smytherman is calling for WSCC's Connections magazine to be scrapped. SUS-190201-105340001
Lib Dem County Councillor Bob Smytherman is calling for WSCC's Connections magazine to be scrapped. SUS-190201-105340001

A council which has to find tens of thousands of pounds in savings over the next four years has been paying £32,500 to have its own newspaper delivered to residents.

Connections, which also costs West Sussex County Council £34,000 to print, is delivered twice a year to around 383,000 homes.

While the council said that advertising cut those costs to 10p per household, that still leaves a bill of more than £38,000 to pay.

Bob Smytherman (Lib Dem, Tarring) said: “On the principle of the magazine I strongly feel that, at a time of significant cuts to council services and the increase in council taxes, it feels very wrong to include these financial challenges on a glossy council magazine sent to every home.”

Mr Smytherman, who previously described Connections as ‘a propaganda tool’, welcomed the news that some of the cost was recovered through advertising.

But he added: “It does beg the question whether a public body such as a council should receive money from a commercial partner to subside a publication to promote public services.”

A council spokesman said: “We have a duty to communicate with residents and are constantly reviewing the best ways to do this.

“Connections contains helpful and important information for residents on the wide range of services provided by the county council and its partners, and reaches audiences who may not be accessing digital or online information.”

The money to pay for the printing and delivery of Connections comes from the corporate communications budget, with one part-time member of staff charged with editing and collecting its content.

It is designed by the council’s in-house graphics team.

Mr Smytherman asked why the information printed in Connections could not instead be shared with the various neighbourhood magazines dotted around the county.

He added: “In Tarring we have a magazine – Inside Tarring – delivered to every home in my area who would gladly share the public information in each edition at no cost and I am sure other councillors would have similar providers who would do the same.”