£900k bill: Is Sheffield Council spending too much on PR?

Amy Lynch

Amy Lynch

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SHEFFIELD Council spent more than £900,000 in a year hiring marketing and public relations agencies - although it has since reduced costs by 50 per cent.

The authority, which has its own in-house press and marketing team, splashed out £500,117.81 on marketing and £425,574.16 on PR firms during 2009/10, according to figures released to The Star under the Freedom of Information Act.

Bev Skinner

Bev Skinner

Amounts declared by other public bodies in South Yorkshire were much lower.

Sheffield Council spent the cash on projects in various different areas, including hiring agencies to provide press releases for development agency Creative Sheffield, Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust, which runs Kelham Island Museum and Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, and the Sheffield Is My Planet environmental campaign.

Some of the work has included marketing the city to businesses around the UK.

But the Lib Dem run authority said it had halved the bill in 2010/11.

John Jackson

John Jackson

Sheffield Council leader Coun Paul Scriven said the high costs - which combined with advertising totalled £1.2 million in 2009/10 but fell to £620,000 in 2010/11 - were inherited from when Labour last ran the council in 2007/8.

He said it had “taken time” to deal with them, adding: “We inherited a vast amount of waste and bureaucracy from Labour when we took control. We are continuing to drive down these costs.”

But Coun Bryan Lodge, opposition Labour deputy leader and finance spokesman, said: “When the Lib Dems took power they made a big thing of how they were going to reduce spending on publicity - it looks like another broken promise.”

John Mothersole, the council’s chief executive, said: “Promoting the council and Sheffield is important particularly if we are to continue to attract major events and visitors to the city, as well as inform local people of the services we offer. We do have core in-house teams supporting this work but there will be times that external suppliers are used.”

Will Birch

Will Birch

Barnsley Council was the next highest spender of public bodies in South Yorkshire but its total was a third of Sheffield’s - paying £370,204.05 for market research, media relations, photography, promotion and marketing, and graphic design during the same year.

* NHS Sheffield paid a PR agency £55,703 to run its Stop Smoking Campaign, Doncaster Council spent £28,586.10 to marketing and design agencies, and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive spent £15,800 on public relations.

HERE’S WHAT SOME READERS THINK ABOUT THIS STORY:

“There’s a lot of services the money could be spent on instead, what about services for the mentally ill or providing extra police?”

Sheffield Town Hall

Sheffield Town Hall

John Jackson, aged 47, registered disabled, from

Gleadless Valley.

“It’s not right to spend money in this way. The council is making a lot of cuts at the moment and we have two autistic children who could do with more help. ”

Bev Skinner, aged 44, a full-time carer from Hackenthorpe.

“They should be spending money on things for the community rather than PR. The money should go on things that benefit people.”

Amy Lynch, aged 23, paediatric nurse, from Gleadless.

“They should spend a lot less on PR and instead put more towards improving communications so there are staff to talk to when you need to get in touch. ”

Will Birch, aged 19, cafe worker, from Meersbrook.

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