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Doctor: 'Outlook is bleak'

July 29, 2010 12:29 PM
By Emma Pengelly, in pontypridd.observer@walesonline.co.uk.

Doctor: 'Outlook is bleak'

Jul 29 2010 by Emma Pengelly, Rhondda Leader

USING council taxpayers' cash to promote the activities of a single political party is an "undemocratic" use of public funds.

So says Doctor Brendan O'Reilly, of the Pontyclun Action Group, who argues the £60,000 spent on producing the 12-page English and Welsh quarterly Outlook and having it delivered by Royal Mail is "costly and environmentally unfriendly."

Mr O'Reilly of Clos Brenin in Brynsadler protested: "Almost all of the articles are about issues and events about which RCT Cabinet members comment.

"And Labour Party councillors appear in fourteen photographs - seven in the English section and seven in the Welsh section.

"This means that this co-called newspaper is overtly political representing the views of Labour only.

"Nothing at all is contained in the paper that other county councillors are doing or have said on any of the issues raised.

"Therefore, not only is this political but it is non-representative of the council and it is undemocratic.

"This county council newspaper is in reality a Labour Party newspaper, paid for by council tax-payers.

"I believe this is cynical and not acceptable and I object to it."

A Freedom of Information Act request to RCT council resulted in the council saying: "Year on year savings have been achieved in the production of Outlook in line with the council's own efficiency expectations.

"The council spent £74,405.10 on publishing and promoting its Outlook newspaper during the financial year 2007-2008, £67,308.93 during 2008-2009 and £60114.32 during 2009-2010."

Against a £451m budget, obviously a £60,000 spend is nominal - but it is public cash.

RCT council's Head of Strategy & Public Relations Christian Hanagan said such publications fulfilled authorities' statutory obligation to communicate with their residents.

He said: "It is inevitable that as the cabinet is made up from members of the ruling group leading their areas of service responsibilities, they feature regularly in Outlook.

"A glance through previous editions would show that many feature members of all political groups - especially where they have a position of responsibility.

"Our Welsh Language Policy has committed us to ensuring publications such as Outlook are provided in a bi-lingual format.

"Elected Members are not involved in producing Outlook, the editorial team comes from the Public Relations department.

"Feedback from the public about Outlook has found that the information in relation to specific services is welcomed and has improved take up of services in a number of important areas."

"And Outlook costs each resident the equivalent of 54p a year."

So should the council be spending such amounts on publishing Outlook and what do you do with your copy? Tell us what YOU think by ringing 01443 629200, 07825 282060; e-mail pontypridd.observer@walesonline.co.uk.