Wakefield Council should axe 'The Citizen' publication to save cash, local Liberal Democrat Tom Gordon says
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'The Citizen', which is normally produced by the local authority every six months and sent out to households in the district, details events, festivals and campaigns being put on by the council.
Since the start of the Covid pandemic, it has been running exclusively online.
But Councillor Tom Gordon, the Lib Dems' sole representative on the council, claimed the publication amounted to "propaganda paid for by the taxpayer".
In a proposed amendment to be put forward at next week's budget meeting, Coun Gordon said cutting The Citizen could save £40,000 a year.
Coun Gordon said: "It's not impartial and I don't think people read it anyway.
"It's the job of local councillors to tell people what's happening in their communities, that's what they're elected to do.
"It shouldn't be for the taxpayer to pay to find that information out."
The Lib Dems nationally have been criticised for producing campaign literature which takes the form of a local newspaper, both recently and before the 2019 General Election.
Asked for his views on that issue, Coun Gordon said: "Labour and the Conservatives do it regularly, but for some reason it's the Lib Dems who get picked on for it. There's often double standards when it comes to this.
"It's not something we've done in Wakefield.
"But I think it's pretty clear when you read them that it is campaign literature."
The ruling Labour group's budget proposals are expected to be passed by a majority vote next Wednesday.
Coun Gordon's amendment also includes proposals to fund five extra jobs within children's mental health services, as well as a £250,000 investment in creating more 20mph zones across the district.
He's also called for a similar amount to be invested in improving parks and playgrounds and proposed the council continue with virtual meetings after the pandemic to save cash on paying councillors' travel expenses.
“This budget is one that not only works for the people that I represent in Knottingley and Ferrybridge but is one that will benefit everyone across Wakefield," Coun Gordon said.
Labour's proposals will see council tax bills rise by 3.99 per cent from April, with just over half of that figure going towards paying for social care.
The Conservative opposition has criticised that move, arguing that the rise is excessive.
But Coun Gordon said he believed the increase was necessary in light of the amount of cash local authorities are receiving from the government.
He said: "It's regrettable that councils up and down the country are once again left with limited options and forced to increase council tax, as a result of a shortage of funding from central government.
"We've seen the importance of local authorities in dealing with the Covid response. More money has to be made available to them.
"Unfortunately if people want an increase in services from the council, then the only way we can do that is by increasing council tax."
Local Democracy Reporting Service
Coun Gordon's proposed amendment in full:
a) A reduction of £43k to the chief executive's unit revenue budget to be achieved by abolishing the allowances for deputy Cabinet portfolio holders and group business managers (part-year impact).
b) A reduction of £18k to be achieved by reducing the travel allowances paid to elected members to reflect the potential continuation of virtual council meetings, subject to national regulations (part-year impact).
c) A reduction of £35k to the chief executive's unit revenue budget to be achieved through further digitisation of committee and council services leading to a reduction in printing and postage costs.
d) A reduction of £115k to the council-wide revenue budget to be achieved through a review of the senior management and the deletion of one service director post.
e) A reduction of £40k to the chief executive’s unit revenue budget to be achieved by savings on communications including abolishing ‘The Citizen’ and reviewing all other promotional materials.
f) An increase of £191k to the children and young people’s directorate revenue budget to fund an additional 5 posts in the Children, Adolescent and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to ensure timely and quality interventions for children and young people requiring support.
g) An increase of £10k to the communities, environment and climate change directorate budget to fund an additional 34 grit bins across the district, representing a 10 per cent increase in capacity.
h) An increase of £50k to the regeneration and economic growth directorate revenue budget to fund a feasibility study into the provision of a swimming pool/leisure centre in the north east of the district. If the outcome of this feasibility study is positive, to increase the capital programme by £7m to fund the investment.
i) An increase of £250k to the capital programme to provide safer residential neighbourhoods through the creation of additional safer street zones and 20 mph zones across the district. To be funded by prudential borrowing.
j) An increase of £250k to the capital programme to establish a neighbourhood crime prevention fund and invest in the provision of additional fencing, CCTV and other initiatives aimed at reducing crime and the fear of crime. To be funded by prudential borrowing.
k) An increase of £250k to the capital programme to provide additional funding for enhancing and improving parks and play spaces across the district.