A Freedom of Information request by Wrexham.com discovered that North Wales Newspapers (NWN), publishers of The Leader, have been paid £316,283 over four years – with £113,869 of that in 2011/12 – for items Wrexham Council state were ‘assumed to be public notices’.
A local authority is required to publish such public notices in a certain format and in a certain manner to comply with the relevant legislative requirements.
In the same four year period Daily Post publishers Trinity Mirror (TM) received just £7,867 for public notices – which equates to 6.9% of the council’s spend with NWN.
Wrexham.com also asked about the costs of job advertising for staff across Wrexham Council in adverts solely in NWN / TM publications. We were provided with data saying that the total cost came to a whopping £980,538 over four years for ‘expense on staff advertising throughout the authority’ – however there was no spending split given – so we re-asked for details.
This uncovered Trinity Mirror, publishers of the Daily Post, receiving £97,491 whereas Leader publishers North Wales News saw £170,248 over the same period – a total of £267,739. The destination of the remaining £712,799 was not noted, although we did not ask.
Combining job advertising and statutory notice spend by the Council it takes the total over four years to be:
North Wales Newspapers: £486,531
Trinity Mirror: £105,358
This method of spending is not limited to Wrexham Council. Other councils, the Welsh Assembly and other Agencies and Authorities may also place legally required adverts in publications with media groups often covering several council areas. On top of this there are a variety of notices required by the NHS, the police and the fire service as well as quangos and committees. Some media groups also produce magazines or use their printing equipment for non-news related activities.
Wrexham Council’s ‘Connect’ magazine (which our FOI revealed cost £45,000) has previously been printed by North Wales Newspapers, and we asked the Council for comment on value for money on statutory notice placement as the Connect was due to be delivered to around 48,000 Wrexham residents, creating a situation where the Council themselves could have an equal or greater circulation to the publications they were advertising in.
The Council have told us: “We would indeed prefer to put our statutory notices in Connect, but in law we have to put them into commercial newspapers circulating in the area, despite the fact that they reach fewer households and are very, very expensive.”
The BBC’s ‘The Wales Report” presented by Huw Edwards was broadcast over the weekend with part of the programme dedicated to looking at the media landscape of Wales, focusing on hyperlocal’s and traditional print newspapers.
In the programme Clwyd South AM Ken Skates, interviewed from the BBC’s Wrexham studios (namedropping Wrexham.com and the excellent LlanBlogger) commented on statutory notices, stating: “The Welsh Government is looking at the issue of Statutory Notices, this is something that hyperlocal websites raise with me and the established newsprint media.”
“It is one area I am pleased the Welsh Government is looking at where councils basically use Statutory Notices to fund free newspapers that then deprive formal media of valuable revenue.”
“That is one big area that is raised with me time and again.”
Just over a week ago we reported on how the Leader’s circulation had dropped a further 5.8% , and the Daily Post owner’s Trinity Mirror had announced job cuts as part of their new company strategy.
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