Cambridge Matters – Distribution on Election Day

Thursday, May 1st, 2008. 9:55pm

To: Elections @ cambridge dot gov dot uk, copied to the local opposition on the City Council.

I wasn’t very impressed to have the City Council Newsletter – “Cambridge Matters” delivered by hand though my door on the morning of election day.

It’s full of charts and articles trying to show how great the current council is.

It has a “Liberal yellow” banner across the top.

I don’t think it was appropriate for the Council to be delivering this newsletter on Election Day, and can’t imagine it was co-incidence.

Richard Taylor

5 comments/updates on “Cambridge Matters – Distribution on Election Day

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I didn’t post the response I got at the time:

    Dear Mr Taylor

    Thank you for your email which I am responding to as editor of Cambridge Matters.

    Cambridge Matters is delivered over a three week period, as it is delivered during other area-based work. We currently put out 3 issues per year which are delivered seasonally, in Spring, Autumn and Winter. The Spring issue normally starts being delivered at the end of April – this also depends on available production slots with the publishers.

    The magazine is written and produced entirely by officers and does not contain information or quotations relating to any councillor. The magazine is also not produced centrally by a corporate team, but by a group of 4 officers who hold posts related to the environment. Officers are issued with guidance on publicity during the run-up to elections and must not give publicity to candidates.

    The colour used on the front cover of the latest issue was chosen by a designer at our publishers to match the daffodils in the cover picture. Daffodils were chosen to represent Spring.

    The council has a duty to report to residents on its performance compared with other local authorities, which is measured by Best Value Performance Indicators (BVPIs). These include things like the recycling rate. The 2 pages of charts which you refer to were an advertisement placed by the council’s Performance Analyst as a follow-up to the Best Value Performance Plan summary sent out with council tax booklets in March.

    Thank you again for your email – your comments have been noted.

    Best regards

    Vicky Kelso
    Cambridge Matters

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    I received a follow up stating:

    I have spoken to Alison Kemp and she informed me that the Best Value Performance Plan summary was not put into the council tax booklets this year. This has happened in every previous year as far as I know, so I apologise that I gave you incorrect information. The two pages in Cambridge Matters replaced this rather than being in addition to it this year.

  3. Paul Harvey

    Cambridge Matters is published four times per year. The magazine is currently costing taxpayers £38,500 per year and that figure excludes staff costs. The in-house advertising budget was supposed to be £755 per issue. In issue 16 the council spent £1804 and in issue 17, £2,284.
    There is a hole in the accounts of £28,000 which has been dug since 2004.
    All councillors have been sent detailed accounts on the magazine. Let’s see how many really care about taxpayer’s money.
    The magazine’s main purpose is to keep the Lib Dems in power at taxpayer’s expense.

    Paul Harvey
    CB1 7AR

  4. Martin

    38.5k a year sounds fine to me. I bet it would cost at least 50p/person/year to put out the recycling info alone (which wouldn’t attract any advertising) and which is necessary for the recycling system to run.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    A major aspect of the problem Mr Harvey is drawing attention to is that councillors aren’t clearly being told either the full cost to the city council, or the full cost to the taxpayer of the publication.

    The question of using the tax-payer funded magazine for political gain is also important; especially as the magazine has been (from the next issue) moved away from focusing on recycling to a broader commentary on the council under the control of the council leader.

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