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The end is near for £75k council magazine
THE “free” self-promotional magazine that cost Herefordshire Council some £75,000 a year to produce is being cut.
The council confirmed this week that Herefordshire Matters, the publication which critics dubbed Pravda, no longer has a budget.
Campaigner Nick Jones, who first publically questioned the purpose of the magazine at a full council meeting in 2010, told the Hereford Times: “If I said this Pravda will be sadly missed, I'd find I had a nose as long as Pinocchio the next morning.”
That full council meeting confirmed the cost of the then bi-monthly magazine as being around £75,000 a year.
Councillor June French, then cabinet member for corporate and customer services, told the meeting that the council budgeted £12,500 per edition with the gross annual cost being £75,000 based on six editions a year delivered to more than 80,000 households and other locations.
Members heard that this distribution was the highest cost element of the magazine, with council staff contributing to content and advertising revenue worth about £30,000 a year.
In support of the magazine, the council cited surveys showing that nearly 100 per cent of respondents found the articles interesting or covering issues important to them.
Subsequently, the very existence of Herefordshire Matters became an issue the council’s critics could rally around.
The council kept up – and stepped up – support for the magazine even when local government secretary Eric Pickles toughened up the rules on council publications saying less should be spent on “Pravdas that end up in the bin” at the expense of frontline services.
Disability campaigners called for cash spent on the magazine to be channelled instead towards carer support.
In November last year, a Freedom of Information (FoI) request revealed the total cost of the magazine – produced by Herefordshire Council and NHS Herefordshire – over that financial year was £74,505.
The direct cost of printing one edition of the magazine was put at £7,000 – or £28,000 per year – with the council funding the printing costs.
Other details confirmed included:
- 82,500 copies produced per edition, to be distributed by Royal Mail.
- NHS Herefordshire funded the distribution costs, and the typical direct cost for distribution had been £7,000 per edition, or £28,000 per year.
In a statement to the Hereford Times this week, the council said it had “not set a budget” for Herefordshire Matters next year and had no plans for a future print edition.
The council did not, however, rule out some kind of online option.