YOUR complaint about the h&f news costing the council £174,292 a year should be put in context.
According to an Evening Standard survey, our total spending on publicity at £669,000 is the second lowest of the 32 London boroughs. Only Bexley spends less. Southwark spends over £5m.
We have slashed spending on spin and cut the number of communications staff from 13 under Labour to seven.
The cost of h&f news is much lower than the previous council publication HFM Magazine, which cost £400,000 a year.
Ironically, if we were to produce h&f news less frequently than fortnightly, or cease publication altogether, then the cost to the council tax payer would be higher.
This is because of the requirement to run statutory notices, which if we weren't producing our own newspaper we would have to pay to place elsewhere. The paid advertising would cost more than the £174,292. Of course, it would be nice for you, as you could expect to be on the receiving end of a lot of it, but it would not represent value for money. The good news is that h&f advertising revenue has been flourishing and the cost of £174,292 should be sharply down in the financial year just ending than in the previous year, upon which your figure was based.
Already it breaks even on production costs and we should work towards it breaking even when staff costs are included.
I do think there is a valid role for a council communicating with residents. There are many issues where the involvement of residents as active citizens is enormously helpful to the council achieving its objectives.
Would you like to start a Neighbourhood Watch scheme? Would you like to sponsor a street tree? Would you like to be a school governor? Are you in interested in fostering or adoption?
Then there are all the events and services the council is involved with which residents can only use if they are aware of them.
Sometimes events generate revenue and the more who turn up, the greater the revenue for the council. But I also welcome the remarkable transformation of the Chronicle. As a paid-for paper, you only sold about 1,500 copies, but you are now going to 72,000 homes in the borough for free.
You are now a genuinely local paper - previously as a 'local' paper you were something of a fraud as, apart from the front page, most of the news stories were from other boroughs and were syndicated from sister publications.
The only reason it made sense to continue its rather nominal existence was the life support system of huge council subsidy via advertising of the statutory notices, unseen by 97 per cent of residents.
With the end of this dependency culture of council advertising, I quite see the way the Chronicle operated would have to change. You have had to expand and operate on a viable commercial basis or give up and die.
The ending of the life support of statutory ads has prompted the Chronicle to develop into a local, independent paper that is genuinely local and independent.
As we have seen elsewhere, subsidies seldom cause a concern to flourish. Forget about them and get on with selling ads to people who are not forced to advertise with you as a statutory requirement. There should be room for both papers.
COUNCILLOR HARRY PHIBBS Ravenscourt Park Ward