£145,000 spent on outside help for city council

Cllr John Holdich
Cllr John Holdich
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Nearly £150,000 was spent by Peterborough City Council on external communications and marketing support from the start of 2016.

The cash-strapped council has forked out £145,250 over the period, most of which was to plug gaps in its communications department.

However, thousands of pounds were also spent on helping the council campaign for more government funding.

The council has warned that key services will be impacted unless it receives more money from the Government.

Council leader Cllr John Holdich said the authority had reorganised its “well managed” communications department to cut costs and that the need for outside support would diminish with permanent staff now recruited.

He added: “The communication world is forever changing and there is a greater need to keep your customers informed and consulted, whether via social media, the radio or the many written publications.

“The department generates an income of £200,000 and also spends a considerable amount - circa £125,000, largely with the PT - on advertising. Overall, the department offers good value for money.” That income included advertising and sponsorship.

Between January 1, 2016 and November 22, 2017, £120,000 was spent with Athene Communications to support the media team before a permanent member was recruited. Another £12,520 was spent on The Creative Marketing Studio to provide cover for a vacant full-time marketing officer post.

The same figure was also spent on PS Media, which is run by former broadcaster and Peterborough Telegraph columnist Paul Stainton. This was mostly used to help the council’s funding campaign through the production of video and audio clips.

A council spokeswoman said the campaign has received cross-party political support, adding: “We’ve been successful in taking the campaign to a national audience as part of Budget coverage on BBC News and have received good support from the local media, especially the Peterborough Telegraph, as well as ITV Anglia, BBC Look East and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.”

The council said its total spend on communications in 2016/17 was £142,000, an underspend of £22,000 on its budget. It said it is predicting an underspend of £10,000 in its 2017/18 budget.

Labour’s group leader on the council, Cllr Ed Murphy, said he had spoken to the council cabinet about communications costs. He added that “proposals to review the communications budget and, specifically, to reduce the amount in allowances for administration members” will be sought to save £160,000.