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Spending and tax rise make public see red

PUBLISHED: 14:33 22 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:51 07 September 2010

Charlotte Newton & Robyn Rosen HARINGEY Council is facing criticism for wasting taxpayers money after plans emerged to spend thousands of pounds on newspaper cuttings while increasing the cost of council tax. Lib Dem opposition councillors and residents

Charlotte Newton & Robyn Rosen

HARINGEY Council is facing criticism for wasting taxpayers' money after plans emerged to spend thousands of pounds on newspaper cuttings while increasing the cost of council tax.

Lib Dem opposition councillors and residents expressed outrage that the council plans to pay a media monitor - Durrants, established as a "provider of press cuttings to the aristocracy" - £14,157 this year, when council tax is expected to rise by 45p a week for an average Band D property.

This is almost three times more than the £5,061 the council spent in 2007 to 2008 on newspaper cuttings.

A council spokesman said that the increase in cost is due to the "significant volumes of child protection coverage" but critics have claimed that the money is wasted on a job which could be done by the council's four permanent press officers or the 13 other paid staff in the communications team.

Lib Dem councillor for Crouch End, David Winskill, said: "This is another by-product of the fallout from the Baby P fiasco.

"If Haringey had simply decided to tell the truth and apologise it is unlikely the media maelstrom they created would have been so intense or lasted for so long.

"The sad truth is that Haringey ratepayers have to pay almost £10,000 extra just to find out how dreadful this council is.

"It's clear that money like that should be going to frontline services such as child protection."

Leona Daniel, 41, a resident of Hornsey High Street, said: "That money would be a whole year's wage for someone.

"There's not many police around here and we never know what's being done by the council. It's just a waste."

Mark Pepper, a 43-year-old hairdresser, said: "The wastage is astronomical, I imagine this is just the tip of the iceberg."

Nearby councils, including Islington and Barnet, do not spend any money on media monitoring, using their own press officers instead to collate clippings.

The timing of the revelation has also upset residents, who had been hoping that the council may follow Westminster Council's lead - which plans to freeze council tax this year.

A spokesman for the council told the Broadway: "Haringey Council tax will be set at the full council meeting on Monday February 23.

"Council policy is for an increase of no more than three per cent."

But Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr Robert Gorrie said: "The Labour council seems determined to put further pressure on the most vulnerable in Haringey - by increasing rents by 6.1 per cent, putting up service charges by astronomical amounts and again increasing council tax.

"What is really needed, and it is my challenge to them, is to deliver a freeze on council tax this year to help our residents."

The predicted two per cent increase is lower, however, than the 3.5 per cent average increase which the Local Government Association has estimated that town halls will enforce this year.


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