Swingeing cuts’ call over budget

PUBLISHED: 11:44 01 November 2007 | UPDATED: 15:19 12 May 2010

LIBERAL Democrats are calling for swingeing cuts in Herts County Council s public relations budget. They said that spending £1.5 million-a-year on public relations beggars belief . But the county council has responded by saying that it has a statutory

LIBERAL Democrats are calling for "swingeing cuts" in Herts County Council's public relations budget.

They said that spending £1.5 million-a-year on public relations "beggars belief".

But the county council has responded by saying that it has "a statutory responsibility to communicate with residents".

Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats group at County Hall, said he would be seeking cuts in this year's budget talks.

He said spending on public relations worked out at a "staggering" £4,000-a-day.

"With services for vulnerable people being cut back, it beggars belief that this department has 27 staff and has been increasing its spending by nearly three times the rate of inflation," he said.

"We will be seeking swingeing cuts," he added.

The county council employs about 28,000 people - 27 people are employed in communications.

Of these, six are full-time Press officers. Their department provides "a round-the-clock service" for all media outlets.

The county council said it achieved "editorial coverage" which would otherwise lead to spending on advertising.

It said that this was a saving.

Others employed in the communications department cover a "wide range of roles" from working on the county council's website to organising events or campaigns.

"Much of the work is about preparing public information materials of various types," said the county council.

This includes material for schools admissions and supporting surveys such as work on waste consultation.

The county council said: "The council has a statutory responsibility to communicate with residents about some services.

"The majority of communications work is not about promoting the county council, but about providing information to the public.

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