Fake news or wishful thinking?

Council publishes new “Our City” newspaper

No doubt the York Council would be criticised if it failed to keep residents informed about what goes on in the City and how the Council spends taxpayers money. Whether spending £10,000 on putting a magazine through everyone’s letterbox represents a prudent use of resources may divide opinion.

The current edition of “Our City” is tidier and therefore more accessible than previous editions. But it fails an important test.

It isn’t objective.

Telling people that things are going well when patently many street level public services in the City are far from that, transforms an information source into a propaganda channel.

There are major problems with keeping the streets tidy and free of weeds. The refuse collection service is now chronically unreliable. Many roads and paths are potholed. Some are dangerously obstructed by trees and hedges. These issues don’t merit a mention in “Our City”.

The Council does praise the hugely expensive community stadium project without telling people precisely when the stadium will come into use. Apparently the IMAX cinema (a plus for the City) will open in December but there is no explanation for the delays that have dogged the future home of York City FC and the York Knights Rugby team.

But the main concern will be the failure to be frank about the risks involved in some of its projects.

The Council is acting as its own housing developer and hopes to build 600 homes in the City over the next few years. It has recruited a significant number of additional staff to do so. It could have used local companies to undertake the work but chose not to. It is a high risk venture but, at the end of the day, in York any new homes will be occupied one way or another.

The same can’t be said about the £20 million Guildhall redevelopment. There is little evidence to suggest that a “business club” is needed in the City and even less that the York Council would be the best organisation to manage one.

The “Our City” article disingenuously talks of the project generating £848,000 a year in rents. It fails to point out that would involve renting out all the available space and that, even then, the income would be barely sufficient to pay the interest payments on the money that the Council intends to borrow to fund the scheme!

Sadly similar mistakes have been made in the past. £12 million was spent on the Barbican concert hall. The Council chose to manage that facility itself despite a complete lack of experience in the field. It later turned out that the hall manager had failed to apply for an entertainments licence for the building and had operated it unlawfully for several months. The Barbican ran at a loss of £800,000 a year and eventually had to be sold on to the private sector.

Whether anyone will come forward to rescue the Guildhall project remains to be seen.

York Council “free” newspaper has cost nearly £40,000 so far this year

The “Our City” newspaper, published by the York Council, has racked up a bill of nearly £40,000 so far since July.

Our City front page Nov 2015The total of £38,624 covers four editions the last of which will be delivered in January. All households are supposed to have a copy delivered free of charge.

Not all of the costs will fall on York Council taxpayers. Contributions have also been made by “partner” agencies such as the Police (although it is mostly public money in the end).

The newspaper content and design has been criticised for being “dull”. Copies can be downloaded from the Council’s web site (click)

In October copies of the newspaper were dumped in the communal areas of flats and clearly never reached the intended readers.

The suppliers includes Newsquest (publishers of The Press) who design and print the newspaper while the “Local Link” free advertising magazine undertakes delivery.

The editorial content is written “in house”.

The Council has failed to include the “cost per household” figure on recent editions (it works out at about 12p per taxpayer for each edition) as was agreed would be provided, on all Council literature, more than a decade ago.

While normally £40,000 might be regarded as a small bill for the (worthy) objective of keeping residents informed, the expenditure comes against a background of cheeseparing cuts to basic public services such as street cleansing and weed control.

The new Council didn’t openly debate its policy on public communications when it took office in May, so we do not know what relative priority it gives to the burgeoning use of social media – which provides up to date news each day – nor the plans to re-introduce a, more locally focused, “Ward Committee” newsletter.

To their credit many Councillors do produce their own newsletters – the LibDem version is Focus – which are published and delivered without any cost to taxpayers.

Our City costs


Latest York Council newspaper sets new record for dullness

The Council has published another “Our City” newspaper.

It is a dull read and it even manages to use most of its front page up with an article on the Council  “budget” which says absolutely nothing – other than that there will be one next year!

The articles have all appear to have been recycled from social media and the commercial press.

Once again the Council has broken its own ten year old protocol which requires that any leaflets that it may produce, must show the cost of production and distribution.

There are better things to  spend taxpayers money on.

Our City Winter 2015


Shock as Council Newspaper dumped in flat stairwells

Copies of a Council newspaper that cost thousands of pounds to publish have been left in the stairwells of Council flats in the Windsor Garth area.

Copies of Council newspaper dumped in flat stairwells

Copies of Council newspaper dumped in flat stairwells

The newspaper has apparently been delivered together with  with a “Local Link” advertising magazine  and various other bits of junk mail.

Many haven’t found there way through letterboxes and local residents say that anything left in communal areas is likely to be put straight into recycling containers.

The newspaper has also courted controversy as it fails to include details of the cost of production – something that the Council agreed to print on all its publications more than15 years ago.

If design, printing and delivery costs are included, then a newspaper can cost around £10,000 to distribute to all (80,000) homes in the City

The publication has been described as a “waste of money”.

In the Kingsway area residents point to three Council funded noticeboards which have not had anything displayed on them for over two years.

Our City Autumn 2015