News 14-plugs-leader

A year on from our first look at job advert and statutory notice spending by Wrexham Council, we publish the latest set of figures – you won’t read this in the papers!

Statutory notices are often the rather dull Council placed adverts in papers that detail road closures, planning notices and the like, usually found languishing in the rear pages.

A local authority such as Wrexham Council is required to publish such public notices in a certain format and in a certain manner to comply with the relevant legislative requirements.

Research by the Local Government Information Unit says on publishing statutory notices: “It could be argued that this is a back door subsidy, from local authorities to the local press.”

The LGIU goes on to quote Councils in the UK describing them as a ‘total waste of money’ and one Planning Officer who noted just ten responses to notices throughout his 30 year career. Wrexham Council have not been as candid, however have responded to our queries on their spending below.

Wrexham.com was told the costs associated with North Wales Newspapers & Trinity Mirror Group in respect of staff advertising & public notices aka statutory notices. North Wales Newspapers (NWN) are the publisher of the Leader papers, and Trinity Mirror publish the Daily Post locally.

The figures given to Wrexham.com via the Freedom of Information (FOI) requests for statutory notice spend are:

2008-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013- March 2014
NWN £70,735.88 £74,811.83 £56,866.13 £113,869.16 £85,641.39 £67,419.42
Trinity Mirror £1,555.20 £900.18 £2,119.37 £3,293.21 £8,413.55 £9,750.00

The total statutory notice spend in the table above is £495,375 with £469,343 of that with NWN , and £26,031 with Trinity Mirror.

We asked the Council if there was any context or special circumstances that has meant more notices have had to be placed. Wrexham Council told us: “We are not aware of any special circumstances that have resulted in an increase in spend. Public Notices are placed in line with legal requirements.”

As readers of Wrexham.com will know the circulation of papers has been dropping, and thus we would expect rate cards to follow as less people are exposed to adverts and notices.

The above datasets begin in 2008, sadly we did not exist in 2008 so have had to dig to find circulation figures. This Press Gazette article quotes the Wrexham Evening Leader as having a circulation of 21,159 in 2008 down from 5.8% ‘year on year’, which we assume refers to 2007.

The figures at the last ABC certificate issue stated the Wrexham edition of the Leader was now in 2014 at a circulation of 8,581 , a  drop of 59.4% from the 2008 figure.

We queried if a readership drop is reflected in pricing, with the Council replying: “As part of the procurement process, Wrexham Council has undertaken a negotiation exercise of the rates charged for newspaper adverts to ensure that best possible value for money is being achieved in this spend area.”

With the drop in circulations there is a concern that the public of Wrexham may miss relevant information, we are told by the Council that ‘placing public notices in local newspapers is a legal requirement.’

Wrexham Council added: “The Council has put in significant work in recent months to lower costs, such as reducing white space. Newspaper notices are one part of the legislation, site notices are also placed in accordance with legislation and support in ensuring the public receive relevant information.”

The figures released show a large drop in spending on job adverts by the Council, detailed in the table below. We asked if this was due to wider Council staffing cut backs, but was told that the Council is placing: “Greater emphasis of advertising vacancies on our website.

“The vacancies section of our website is our most popular page and received nearly 30,000 views last month.”

The overall data revealed by FOI for recruitment ads shows the cut backs made in such spending from around £150,000 a year to under £1,000 :

2008-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013- March 2014
NWN £94,194.16 £43,902.02 £30,112.41 £2,040.25 £2,749.58 £608.32
Trinity Mirror £50,858.42 £31,248.09 £13,322.93 £2,061.76 zero zero

Kindly a screenshot of the stats for March was provided, showing the 30,000 page views. It is worth noting that it is likely such traffic is targeted as the audience is likely interested in jobs and Wrexham to be on that page of the site.

most popular wcbc pages FOI Reveals Wrexham Council’s Media Payments For Statutory Notices

Previously we have asked if Wrexham Council intend to use their £45,000 pa ‘Connect’ magazine, printed previously by NWN, to place job adverts and Statutory Notices . This is not an option this time as it is finally due to close with the current issue (Spring) being the last printed edition distributed after a 11 year stint (as worked out in this Wrexham.com Forum thread , 11 x £45,000 = £495,000 for those who do similar maths to us).

We have been told:”In the future there will be a few printed copies available in various council buildings, but nothing on the scale of the current printed run.”

Last year Clwyd South AM Ken Skates voiced concern over statutory notices and related funding use, so we asked him what work had been done and what had changed.

Mr Skates said: “There is growing recognition that people in the Wrexham area now look for news and information online as much as – possibly even more than – in print.

“This has clear implications for how and where statutory notices are published. Just last month the Wales Audit Office held a seminar for the public sector on the potential to shift statutory notices entirely online. It’s important public sector bodies learn from best practice and achieve savings whenever possible.”

When queried with Lesley Griffiths AM, we are told she is ‘pursuing the issue with Welsh Government officials’.

You can find the cost saving and successful Wrexham Council jobs page at https://www.wrexham.gov.uk/english/vacancies_en/index.htm , however we are unable to find a similar listing for statutory notices – which if it does appear online we are happy to link to and if allowed – syndicate for free!

(Top Pic: Traumatised socket tells us its story tomorrow!)