Revealed: the cost of spin at Camden Council

A WHOPPING £3.7million was forked out on spin this year by Camden Council – making it the third biggest spender in London. Precisely £3,730,533 was spent on publicity – up 6.4 per cent from last year and almost treble what the council spent in 1996. At

A WHOPPING £3.7million was forked out on 'spin' this year by Camden Council - making it the third biggest spender in London.

Precisely £3,730,533 was spent on publicity - up 6.4 per cent from last year and almost treble what the council spent in 1996.

At a time when people are suffering in the economic downturn and after the revelation last week that Camden is cutting £1million from its adult social care budget, the publicity spend has been slammed by voluntary groups.

"They are spending a lot of money publicising services rather than producing them," said Queens Crescent community centre chairman Mick Farrant.

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"It could be spent on a lot better things, particularly on young people and the elderly, instead of on that magazine which seems to be a self-congratulatory publication.

"They always claim that more money is being spent on youth services. But they haven't spent anything in Queen's Crescent.

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"The amount of money they have spent is particularly bad at a time when services are being cut and is only indicative of the priorities of the current regime which is not to provide services."

The figures from the TaxPayers' Alliance revealed that Camden was ranked the 19th biggest spender in the country out of 445 local authorities.

Neighbouring borough Haringey spent £3,405,000 - an increase of 24.7 per cent from the previous year, ranking it 26th in the country.

Westminster Council forked out £3,130,000 - a drop of four per cent on last year, ranking it 30th overall with a population ranking of 89.

Meanwhile, Barnet spent £1,089,000, ranking it 129.

Hampstead and Kilburn Labour party chairman Mike Katz said: "It's important to let people know what's happening, but residents and local businesses will be questioning the spending priorities of the Lib Dem-Tory administration.

"While spending more money on communications, they've cut services and grants to local voluntary groups, while hiking up charges for things like meals-on-wheels.

"In these tough economic times, the council should be investing in public services and coming up with a support plan for the local economy. Instead of a plan to help Camden beat the downturn, all we get is more spend on PR and spin."

The alliance's chief executive Matthew Elliott said: "It is incredibly disappointing that, despite the economic downturn and the loss of millions in Icelandic Banks, local authorities are still spending nearly half a billion pounds a year on publicity.

"While we salute the 218 councils which have cut spending on publicity, the 224 councils which have increased spending should hang their heads in shame.

"In the middle of a recession, councils need to cut back on propaganda and spin doctors and deliver savings to taxpayers."

Camden Council says it provides a huge range of services and it is vital for people who know what is available and how they can access the right service for them.

A spokeswoman said: "Last year, 71 per cent of residents said that they felt informed about the council and its services, up from six per cent in 2001/2.

"Spend on publicity does not mean an army of spin doctors - included in our publicity spend figure are statutory notices that councils by law have to advertise.

"Last year, communications carried out a council-wide review which resulted a saving of £0.4million for 2008/2009 as part of the council's ongoing work to improve efficiency.

"We are reducing newspaper and magazine advertising and relying more and more on the web which will see costs fall.

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