Agenda item

Breckland Voice - Review of Distribution (Agenda Item 7)

To receive a report on the Review of Distribution and associated costs.


The Corporate Consultation and Communications Officer presented the report on distribution options for ‘Breckland Voice’.  


As background, a survey earlier this year had revealed that Breckland residents valued ‘Voice’ as a highly informative publication.  It was their preferred method of receiving information about Council services and benefits.


As it had become apparent that the current method (left with bins as part of the Serco contract) sometimes failed to deliver ‘Voice’ to every Breckland resident - for example when bins were not left out for collection or where blocks of flats were involved - the Panel had commissioned a report to look into alternative methods of distribution, together with the costs involved.


In compiling the report, past and current delivery arrangements had been compared, as well as delivery arrangements used by other Councils.  The results, giving clear advantages and disadvantages in each case, were summarised in Appendix 1.   From this it could clearly be seen that, bearing in mind the need for optimum flexibility (for example concerning deadlines, occasional extra copies, as well as the desire to retain the ability to add inserts etc), the current arrangements were generally satisfactory and certainly the cheapest option.   However, it was apparent that adjustment needed to be made to accommodate those residents living in flats. 


If, on the other hand, Members wished to pursue one of the more expensive options illustrated, then further careful research and solid evidence would need to be gathered in order to justify such increases.


In general discussion, Members agreed on the importance of ‘Voice’ and the need to ensure that it reached every resident.  The latter point was particularly important since ‘Voice’ was the one publication over which the Council had ultimate control in terms of style and content.  Additionally ‘Voice’ reached a far wider audience than other forms of media.


It was also felt that if the existing contract was to be amended to provide for delivery of copies through letterboxes in certain cases, then not only would this incur additional expense but there could be practical difficulties of access to flats and some rural properties.   


It was suggested that it might be worthwhile for the Council to leave some copies of ‘Voice’ in village post offices/shops/pubs etc.   However, it was noted that this would incur further costs.     


A Member also pointed out that although each edition of ‘Voice’ was available to view on the website, it was not easily apparent or with the latest copy at the top.    The Corporate Consultation and Communications Officer agreed to look into this. 


There was some discussion about the revenue received from advertising.    This was a relatively new feature in Voice and an agency was used to handle this.  It was felt that income generated from advertising could be used to offset any increased costs incurred through using postal delivery options.  However it was also generally agreed that too much advertising could deter  residents from reading their copies.   A careful balance needed to be achieved on this.  


There was general consent that polywrapping of ‘Voice’ should continue: it ensured that copies were kept clean and enabled the Council to add inserts securely.


The number of issues per year was also discussed.   At Members’ request this had been increased from four to ten editions per year and it was felt that this enabled better coverage of matters affecting individual towns and villages, as well as having a better overall impact on readers.


         RECOMMEND to Overview and Scrutiny Commission to recommend to Cabinet that,


(1)         The Council continue to deliver Breckland Voice with the wheelie bins, but pay an additional £650 per edition to provide postal delivery to properties sharing a bin.  This cost could be met from within the existing budgets for the remainder of 2008/09; subsequently additional funding would be required.  This would have to be met by either a virements from another existing budget, or a growth bid put forward into this year’s budget process.


(2)         A suitable budget be allocated for distribution costs in future years.

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