The foulest damage to our political life comes not from the ‘secrets’ which they hide from us ,but from the the little bits of half-truths and disinformation which they do tell us . These are already pre-digested and then a sicked up as little gobbets of authorised spew – E.P.Thompson , British historian
Hot off the press following the report that Wirral Council was looking to publish its own propaganda sheet http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14558491.Wirral_Council_set_to_defy_Government_rules_by_launching_its_own_monthly_newspaper/ we received a copy of Wirral Council’s CEO Stressed Eric Robinson ‘s ExecView which tells Council staff the reasoning behind the proposal :
When we carried out our major piece of research into what residents think of living in Wirral, we also asked questions about how much they knew about services and events in their communities. There was a very clear response that local people felt they didn’t know enough about what’s happening in their area – and they’d like to know more. This week, we will publish a Cabinet report with a proposal for a new, free, monthly printed publication that will go to every home and business in the borough.
We will support this with a new website, carrying information which is useful and relevant to residents, and improving our use of social media and other digital channels. If it’s approved, the publication will carry information on public services and community events and activities. It will be produced using existing resources and delivered to homes and businesses once a month, with copies available at locations such as supermarkets, hospitals and transport hubs. I’m very keen we help local residents know more about their area because we know that when people feel informed about where they live, they feel happier about living there. As employees, you and your teams would have a regular opportunity to contribute ideas and stories for the publication. As the vast majority of staff live in Wirral, your expertise and local knowledge will also help ensure we’re including the right things for our communities.
Of course there is a cost to producing a new printed publication but it will be met from redirecting existing spending on communications and advertising, and offset further through generating income. There will be no extra cost to the council tax payer. Longer term, this will save money compared to what we spend on advertising now.
Cabinet will discuss the proposals on Monday 27th June. If approved, the first edition will be out in the autumn. The Cabinet report will be published on our website towards the end of the week.
A few observations from us. Firstly it confirms that “Executive Policy Officer” Martin Liptrotsky is truly the de facto Chief Executive Of Wirral Council . Fourteen months in office and all Stressed Eric can come up with is a newsletter?. I think we all know who’s pulling the strings here don’t we?. Clearly not satisfied that having licence to print stories in the Liverpool Echo (or more accurately the pisspoor Wirral edition) Liptrotsky seems to have been heeding the words of dead rock star Jim Morrison that “whoever controls the media ,controls the mind”.
Secondly we note that the survey to which Stressed Eric refers to pointed to the fact that the residents of Wirral didn’t trust the Council. What better way to restore that trust than by pumping residents with “authorised spew” straight through their letterbox every month?.
What’s more we’re not sure what Stressed Eric is doing referring to “our communities” – like every recent CEO before him he doesn’t even live here!
We at Leaky Towers would ordinarily be rejoicing in the news – after all it’ll be more blogfodder for us and endless opportunities for satire – but we realise that when Eric talks about generating income/saving on communications and advertising that this is worrying for mainstream media outlets and consequently local democracy.
We say this bearing in mind guidance issued in 2011 by Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) which states :
Local authorities should not publish or incur expenditure in commissioning in hard copy or on any website ,newsletters ,newssheets or similar communications which seek to emulate commercial nespapers in style or content .Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters ,newssheets or similar communications ,they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly ,apart from parish councils which should not issue them more frequently than monthly . Such communications should not include material other than information for the public about the business , services and amenities of the council or other local service providers
We wonder whether local publications such as the Wirral Globe should be concerned about this proposal and if (or rather when) the proposal is approved whether a legal challenge in the form of a Judicial Review might be in order?
However last word on the matter (for now) goes to Kevin “The Lost Boy”MacCallum the Council’s Senior Manager for Communications & Marketing who makes the confession:
Our Residents’ Survey last year told us very clearly that people in Wirral wanted more information.These findings were a rude awakening for us: they told us the tools we currently use to communicate with residents aren’t powerful enough and aren’t getting the job done.
To which all we can say is don’t be so hard on you and your team Kev!.