PLANS for a civic newspaper in Thurrock have been shelved after the leader of the council admitted there is “no business case” for the publication.
The council’s performance and improvement overview and scrutiny committee met yesterday to discuss the authority’s new communication strategy, which was called in by Labour group chairman councillor Carl Morris.
Tory leader cllr Garry Hague defended the strategy as “fundamental for moving forward”, but conceded that the cost of a newspaper was too high.
He said: “We are looking to save money on communications, so anything we do will have to be done within our budget.
“I don’t think we can make a case for a fortnightly publication, its not something we will be pursuing.”
The report given to the committee on the cost of the newspaper said: “If the council produced a stand alone fortnightly newspaper, the likely costs would be in the region of £300,000.
“The concept would only be proposed on the basis of these costs being substantially or totally met by redirecting external advertising spend, ensuring we produce at nil or low cost to the council.”
The original council report for the proposal, which was leaked in June, estimated that the paper would cost £100,000 a year to produce.
The report also talked of spending £115,000 a year on the salaries of an editor, a designer, and an advertising manager.
Labour estimated that the costs would be nearer to £600,000.
Cllr Morris welcomed the decision to drop the newspaper from the strategy, he said: “Council’s don’t do newspapers very well, whether Labour or Tory authorities, all they are is just propaganda sheets, they go straight in the bin.
“I’m all for communicating with the public but this civic newspaper was just a dumb idea.”
Speaking of the decision not to pursue it, he added: “Its shameful that you took six months to get round to it.
“Common sense has prevailed, and I’m happy about that.”
Alongside the newspaper, the communication strategy approved in October, included plans for a bimonthly on-line magazine, which will also be published in print, and a newsletter for schools on a monthly basis.
The committee decided to reject cllr Morris’ call in.
Conservative councillor Diane Revell said: “We have been informed by the leader that many of the worries that the councillor stated have already been attended to.
“He has addressed our concerns.”