Agenda item

New Publicity Code (Agenda item 7)

Report of the Executive Member for the Environmental Wellbeing & Communications Portfolio (Kay Fisher).

Minutes:

The Marketing & Communications Officer presented the report which advised Members of the implications of the New Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity and recommended a decision regarding the future frequency of issues of Breckland Voice.

 

The Publicity Code provided guidance on the content, style and cost of local authority publicity.  Authorities were required by law to consider the Code in coming to any decision on publicity of any form addressed to the public.

 

A consultation with local authority organisations on a draft revised Code closed on 10 November 2010.  Over 350 responses had been received from organisations and individuals.  Breckland Council had contributed to the consultation.

 

Breckland Council’s publicity reflected the recommendations within the new Code with the exception of the recommendation around the frequency of Council publications.  Under the section relating to ‘Appropriate use of Publicity’ the Code stated that “Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, newssheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more than quarterly.  Breckland Voice was currently published six times a year.

 

Breckland Council currently published 62,000 copies of Voice which were distributed through Royal Mail to all businesses and residents in the Breckland area; it was the only publication in the District that reached everyone.  Whilst Voice was the primary means of communicating with our residents, digital media was a growing opportunity and had to be considered, however, access to the internet was difficult in some areas and some people preferred to use more traditional methods.  Resident’s opinions were constantly monitored through surveys carried out by the Citizens Panel which showed that they were very satisfied with the publication.

 

Although not a significant income stream, local businesses did have the opportunity to advertise in Breckland Voice and cutting the number of issues would result in bigger challenges to deliver timely communications.  The current publication schedule was timed very carefully to fit into key dates in the year. Publishing fewer issues would also increase the pagination resulting in higher printing costs eating into any savings made.

 

The Executive Member for Corporate Development & Performance supported the proposal for six editions.  He pointed out that reducing the publication to four a year would mean that much of the information, by the time Voice had been issued, would be out of date. He felt that Breckland Council already complied with the Code’s criteria in relation to style and content and the public’s satisfaction depended on the quality of the information the Council publicised.

 

The Vice-Chairman agreed with the aforementioned comments and added that Breckland did not have the benefit of widespread coverage of broadband.

 

The Executive Member for Economic & Commercial said that although Norfolk had the Eastern Daily Press many villages in Breckland did not have the facilities to deliver newspapers to the door and for elderly people Voice was the only publication that was widespread.  He mentioned the fact that two of his villages in his Ward did not have broadband facility.

 

The Executive Member for Environmental Wellbeing & Communications stated that the Code required authorities not to be in competition with the local newspaper.

 

Option 1

 

To reduce the number of issues of Breckland Voice to reflect the recommendations of the revised Code.

 

Option 2

 

Continue to have regard to the Code but to continue to publish Voice six times a year given the considerations detailed within the report.

 

Reasons

 

The proposed changes to the Code requiring a reduction in the number of issues would cause a detrimental impact on the Council’s ability to communicate with its residents effectively at a time when engaging with residents was essential.

 

It would impact on the timely nature of the content of the editorial and could result in increased use of other methods used to communicate which might not be as effective and were far more expensive.

 

The geography, population distribution, demographics and media landscape were unique to Breckland and had informed the blend of external communications streams that the Council utilised to engage with its residents in a cost effective way.

 

A restriction on one of the Council’s most essential communication streams would dilute the effectiveness of its communications and would cost more to reach less people – one of the very issues which the revised Code required local authorities to consider.

 

Breckland Voice did not pose a threat to other media streams in the district in terms of editorial content, design and advertising revenue.

 

Breckland Council would continue to have regard to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity.

 

RESOLVED that given the unique circumstances and media landscape of the district, Breckland Council would continue to publish the resident’s magazine Breckland Voice, six times a year whilst having regard to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity.

 

It was agreed that Breckland Council would publically support the Broadband “Back the Bid” campaign launched jointly by Norfolk County Council and the Eastern Daily Press and a link would be added to the website accordingly. 

 

Supporting documents: