Anger at £16k council boast ad

COUNTY chiefs have come in for criticism today after it emerged they shelled out £16,000 on an advert in an industry journal to publicise their achievements.

Neil Puffett

COUNTY chiefs have come in for criticism today after it emerged they shelled out £16,000 on an advert in an industry journal to publicise their achievements.

Suffolk County Council paid out the cash for an eight-page feature in the Local Government Chronicle, a specialist magazine relatively unheard of outside council circles.

The advert focuses on several different areas of the council's work including education, renewable energy, waste and library services.

Critics have blasted the outlay, which was authorised by Graham Dixon, director of resource management, who is responsible for the communications department's budget of £900,000.

Matthew Wallace, director at the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: “It's shocking that while everyone's household budgets are feeling the pinch from the credit crunch the county council splashing taxpayers' cash on pointless advertising.

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“People don't pay their council tax so that the council can make themselves look good.

“They pay it to get a decent service in the area.”

Andrew Cann, deputy leader of the Lib Dem group on Suffolk County Council, said: “Yet again this administration has proved it is completely out of touch with local people.

“How can this be a good use of taxpayers' money?”

Julian Swainson, leader of the county's Labour group said the decision to purchase the advert was “an insult”.

“It is another financial mismanagement of the sort that characterises this administration.

“We shall be asking questions about this.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council defended the decision.

She said: "Suffolk is proud of its many achievements.

“In common with leading and highly rated authorities we like to share best practice with colleagues in local government.”

It is not the first time Suffolk County Council spending has come under the spotlight.

Earlier this year the authority came in for heavy criticism after appointing a new chief executive on £218,000 a year - around £50,000 more than the previous position holder.

Then in August the council was blasted for spending more than £20,000 of taxpayers' cash on a leaflet promoting a single unitary authority for Suffolk.

The leaflets were sent to every household in the county, some 340,000 homes.

- Was the council right to spend £16,000 on an advert? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk