A Suffolk county councillor has questioned the local authority's decision to pay £130,000 for a Facebook scheme on public health messaging.

Christopher Hudson, who represents Belstead Brook for the Conservatives, has called for an inquiry after Suffolk County Council paid SocialKind for the Together For Suffolk page.

The county council has defended its decision to make the payment, saying the money came from central government and it "helped to ensure that essential health and support messages have reached more people than before the pandemic".

It also said the money was from a fund distributed to local authorities with the intention that it was spent on public health initiatives.

The authority said the page has generated more than 4.5million impressions since its launch three years ago – but an independent social media expert told this newspaper the cost represented an "extremely high figure" for the level of engagement.

Ipswich Star: Suffolk county councillor Christopher HudsonSuffolk county councillor Christopher Hudson (Image: Suffolk County Council)

Mr Hudson expressed his surprise at the decision by the Conservative-run council to authorise the payment and said money would be better spent on other services, such as special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision.

He said: "It makes you wonder how this all came about. I would be interested to know who signed off on this.

"It appears to be highly questionable as to what had been attained for this amount of money. We're pinching for every pound at the moment. That money could have been used for SEND.

"It might have come from the government, but this is still taxpayers' money that would have partly come from Suffolk.

Ipswich Star: Suffolk County Council's Endeavour House officeSuffolk County Council's Endeavour House office (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown)

"Is this a judicious use of the money? That is the question we need to be asking.

"I think there needs to be an inquiry and I think this is a matter of public concern."

Stuart Keeble, Suffolk’s director of public health, and communities, said the money for Together For Suffolk was ringfenced for projects solely for messaging relating to Covid and public health.

He said: "The money used to fund this project came from the Contain Outbreak Management Fund, which was specifically provided by central government to help fund ways of reaching more people with Covid, support communities and public health related messaging. 

Ipswich Star: Stuart Keeble, Suffolk's director of public healthStuart Keeble, Suffolk's director of public health (Image: Suffolk County Council)

"Money from this fund could not have been spent on any other council priorities or used to fund council services.

"This project was authorised by the Covid Health Protection Board, which I chaired. 

"Together For Suffolk represents a different way of using Facebook, by using a core group of local community-based Facebook admins to share messages, and feedback thoughts and experiences of residents.  

"It has gained over 4.8million impressions since launch, shared hundreds of messages over a wide range of public health and community issues including Covid vaccinations, homes for Ukraine, cost-of-living support, and is now focusing on future challenges such as increasing MMR uptake."