Wrexham Council spends £45,894.71 on its free newspaper every year it was revealed today.
Figures published by the BBC today had suggested that the costs of publication were fully met by advertising income with both standing at £25,544, but the council has since clarified to Wrexham.com that costs stand at £45,894.71 with advertising income at £20,350 for 2011/12, leaving a gap of around £25,000.
The costs were revealed as the Welsh Government plans to revise its codes which allow Welsh councils to produce free newspapers, with some paid-for newspapers claiming council freesheets are unfair competition.
In England, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has made moves to ban councils from publishing newspapers more than four times a year, although it is not thought that Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant will take his review this far.
Wrexham Council produces a bi-lingual quarterly free paper called Connect, which is delivered to 58,000 residents in the county borough.
Several newspaper groups in the UK have claimed that council papers threaten their advertising revenue, although the Welsh Local Government Association says there is no evidence to support this and that many find them useful.
In addition a Wrexham Council spokesperson told us that advertising in the publication was not typical newspaper advertising e.g. local restaurants but from other council departments targeted at residents who may not read the local press.
There is also an argument to suggest that local papers are partly subsidised by local authorities via statutory notices including roadworks notices, which councils are required to advertise in the local press.
We asked Wrexham.com followers whether they read Wrexham Council’s Connect magazine and whether they found it useful.
Speaking to the BBC Clwyd South AM Ken Skates described local authority free papers as “council propaganda”, a view which was echoed by @wrexham follower @jamesbwxm who said of Wrexham Council’s Connect magazine: “I read it. Then bin it. A complete waste of money. It’s just all spin.”
@chapperswxm said: “In my opinion there are better ways of informing us. Some things are statutory though and have to be published.”
Whilst Gwyn Pugh-Jones said he had never even heard of Connect.
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