Posted: Wed 31st Jan 2024

Welsh Council says it spent £151,000 on just four 20MPH public notices (£385k+ running total!)

Wrexham.com for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2024

The Welsh Government is finally looking to change laws which require statutory notices to be published in local newspapers – some with circulations in the low thousands, and some even in the hundreds.

As readers will have been following, we have placed Freedom of Information requests to all twenty two councils in Wales to discover how much they have spent on placing legally required formal notices – usually in the back of newspapers – to inform the public of the law changes in local areas.

Ten of the councils have replied so far, with some of the larger 20MPH areas still yet to report such as Cardiff, with a total cost over £385,000 being reported via FOI responses by the local authorities.

This sum does not include the £800k+ paid promotion campaign advertising on Facebook / TV / etc by Welsh Government for the 20MPH rollout.

The sums and adverts referenced below are just for the 20MPH traffic notices, but many many other entities public and private are obliged by law to place such ‘statutory notices’.

News companies Reach PLC (five titles) and Newsquest (six titles) are the main publishers used – with Tindle being used twice.

Ministers are looking at taking the first steps to update the outdated laws that require the publishing of ‘a notice of the determination in at least one newspaper circulating in its area’ – starting with the Local Government Finance Bill. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌​‌‌‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌​​‌​‌​​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌‌​​‌‌​‌‍‌‌​​‌‌​​

The consultation run by the Local Government and Housing Committee has now closed, and it remains to be seen if they support the  ‘Section 20’ deletion that would see the phrase about ‘publishing a notice of the determination in at least one newspaper circulating in its area’ replaced with a ‘requirement to publish a notice of the council tax charges on the local authority’s website and put suitable alternative arrangements in place to ensure that such information is accessible to citizens who have difficulty accessing online facilities’. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌​‌‌‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌​​‌​‌​​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌‌​​‌‌​‌‍‌‌​​‌‌​​

If that happens it looks likely other laws would be modernised in Wales.

The responses sourced from the councils are detailed below, with a common theme being the unknown circulations of the publications that carried the public notices. It is not a requirement by law to know such information, just the act of placing the advert in print. We have looked up the publicly stated circulation certificates via ABC.org.uk, some of which date back to 2022.

The adverts may have run multiple days, and for large notices such as these with big lists of roads, bilingual, it can often mean several pages dedicated to them.

The responses from councils are quoted below…

Carmarthenshire Council – £151k

The total number of such notices placed by your authority? 4 Notices

The titles of the publications where the notices placed by you appeared? Llanelli Star, Carmarthen Journal, South Wales Guardian.

The latest circulation figures for the publication titles provided above, and if known the date of the latest refresh of that data. Unknown

The total cost of placement of the notices. £151,769

The Audit Bureau of Circulations’ latest public certificates giving average circulation per issue of:

Publication name given by council Circulation from ABC certificate Publisher
Llanelli Star 2630 Reach
Carmarthen Journal 3250 Reach
South Wales Guardian 1838 Newsquest

 

 

Isle of Anglesey County Council £20k

The total number of such notices placed by your authority? 40

The titles of the publications where the notices placed by you appeared? Bangor/Holyhead/Anglesey Mail

The latest circulation figures for the publication titles provided above, and if known the date of the latest refresh of that data? This data is not tracked.

The total cost of placement of the notices? £20,477.33

The Audit Bureau of Circulations’ latest public certificates don’t give an exact match for that title given, however the Holyhead and Bangor Mail published by Reach PLC has a circulation of 347 (Not a typo, three hundred and forty seven). It is unclear how a local authority can spend over £20k and not know the current title of the publication, but could explain why they can’t track circulations.

 

 

Powys Council £59k

The total number of such notices placed by your authority? – 10 notices (5 TRO’s each requiring 2 notices)

The titles of the publications where the notices placed by you appeared? – Powys County Times and the Brecon and Radnor Express

The latest circulation figures for the publication titles provided above, and if known the date of the latest refresh of that data. – This information is not held by Powys County Council

The total cost of placement of the notices? £59,297.16

The Audit Bureau of Circulations’ latest public certificates giving average circulation per issue of:

Publication name given by council Circulation from ABC certificate Publisher
Powys County Times 6715 Newsquest
Brecon and Radnor Express 3360 Tindle

 

Caerphilly Council £15k

The total number of such notices placed by your authority? 2

The titles of the publications where the notices placed by you appeared? Western Mail

The latest circulation figures for the publication titles provided above, and if known the date of the latest refresh of that data? We do not hold this information

The total cost of placement of the notices? £15,372.98

The Audit Bureau of Circulations’ latest public certificates giving average circulation per issue of:

Publication name given by council Circulation from ABC certificate Publisher
Western Mail 5271 Reach

 

Torfaen Council £20k

The total number of such notices placed by your authority? 2 no. notices placed in the Free Press and on the Torfaen Coucil website.

The titles of the publications where the notices placed by you appeared? The Free Press

The latest circulation figures for the publication titles provided above, and if known the date of the latest refresh of that data? The Free Press circulate is audited by ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation). This certificate is for the period of January 2022 – December 2022. It’s too early in the year for the certificate of 2023 as they’re issued late February.

Please find circulation figures below for 2022:

(Image showing 1,808)

The total cost of placement of the notices? £20,386.85 incl. VAT

The Audit Bureau of Circulations’ latest public certificates giving average circulation per issue of:

Publication name given by council Circulation from ABC certificate Publisher
The Free Press 1808 Newsquest

 

Blaenau Gwent £652 

The total number of such notices placed by your authority? 76 site notices erected.

The titles of the publications where the notices placed by you appeared? Gwent Gazette dated 08/06/2023 & 29/06/2023

The latest circulation figures for the publication titles provided above, and if known the date of the latest refresh of that data? Unfortunately, we do not hold this information as our systems do not record this level of detail.

The total cost of placement of the notices? Advertisement costs in relation to Gwent Gazette £652.90

The Audit Bureau of Circulations’ latest public certificates giving average circulation per issue of:

Publication name given by council Circulation from ABC certificate Publisher
Gwent Gazette 347 Reach

(Not a typo, three hundred and forty seven again)

Ceredigion Council £82k

The total number of such notices placed by your authority? Two in local press, one of Intent and one of Making

The titles of the publications where the notices placed by you appeared?  The Cambrian News and the Cardigan Tivyside

The latest circulation figures for the publication titles provided above, and if known the date of the latest refresh of that data? The Council does not hold this information.

The total cost of placement of the notices? £82,634.72

The Audit Bureau of Circulations’ latest public certificates giving average circulation per issue of:

Publication name given by council Circulation from ABC certificate Publisher
Cambrian News 6877 Tindle
Cardigan Tivyside 2626 Newsquest

 

Neath Port Talbot Council £34k

The total number of such notices placed by your authority? 116 notices to date.

The titles of the publications where the notices placed by you appeared? Wales online (Trinity Mirror).

The latest circulation figures for the publication titles provided above, and if known the date of the latest refresh of that data? This is with Trinity Mirror not the Council and as such we have no data. The adverts are not refreshed.

The total cost of placement of the notices? £34k to date.

Trinity Mirror changed its name in May 2018 to Reach, and Wales Online is as the name suggests is online not print.

The council appears not to know the title of the publication, nor the circulation data, nor the current name of the publisher. None of this is required by law and the council is acting entirely legally as it spends £34k.

 

Denbighshire Council £558

The total number of such notices placed by your authority? One notice was made to include all 5 proposed exception locations. The B5105 Llanfwrog was pulled following objection and backing for its change to 20mph by all of its ward members

The titles of the publications where the notices placed by you appeared? ‘DENBIGHSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL (VARIOUS ROADS) (30MPH SPEED LIMITS) ORDER 2023’ Notices were placed on Denbighshire County Councils ‘County Conversation’ website ‘https://countyconversation.denbighshire.gov.uk/KMS/DMRhyl art.aspx’ , But also physical weather proof notices were placed on street furniture such as lighting columns and sign posts along the effected routes. Notices also appeared in the Rhyl Journal and the Denbigh Free Press and the notices also appeared in the effected routes closest libraries.

The total cost of placement of the notices? £558.60

The Audit Bureau of Circulations’ latest public certificates giving average circulation per issue of:

Publication name given by council Circulation from ABC certificate Publisher
Rhyl Journal 4797 Newsquest
Denbigh Free Press 1595 Newsquest

 

Wrexham Council £4k 

Wrexham Council gave a longer reply to our FOI than others:

Please find some information below and attached:
2 composite TROs were created for the 20mph Scheme, each with a cost of £2000.
These Draft orders were put out for public consultation on YourVoice for a duration of 3 weeks (10th August to 1st September 2023), links to which could be found from the council website. Your Voice – Wrexham (yourvoicewrexham.com)
This link was also shared onto Wrexham Council social media sites, and in the local newspaper (The Leader). Both Welsh and English version were available.
Additionally site notices and letters were sent out to those streets/residents affected by the TROs. (from week commencing Mon 31st July 2023)
The titles of the 2 documents produced were:  The County Borough of Wrexham (Welsh Government 20mph Scheme, Various Locations. ((30mph) Speed Limit) Order 2023. This comprised of 8 locations in which a TRO was required for the speed limit to remain at
30mph

The County Borough of Wrexham (Welsh Government 20mph Scheme, Various Locations. ((20mph) Speed Limit) Order 2023
o This comprised of 28 locations where a TRO was currently in place for 30mph, and under Welsh Gov guidelines met the criteria required for the speed limit to drop to 20mph

553 people accessed the YourVoice consultation online and provided responses. These were often generic objections to the scheme, rather than the individual locations. (date – 7th September 2023 following closure of the YourVoice Survey.
55 responses were received from residents via post and email, relating to the TRO changes at their specific locations, in response to the site notices and letter drops.
A Welsh Government Grant has been provided for the scheme to all councils.

For the financial year 2022-2023 – £439,958 was provided to WCBC, of which £122,752.61 was
claimed to cover staff time, resources, and data collection.

For the financial year 2023-2024 – £361,500 was provided to WCBC, which is being used for staff
time, sign purchase and installation, TROs, and contractors costs for signage and lining works.

That was £28k different from a previous reported FOI. We reasked for clarification on why there was a difference. We also reasked for the the titles of the publications where the notices placed due to two local editions, and again asked “The latest circulation figures for the publication titles provided above, and if known the date of the latest refresh of that data and “the total cost of placement of the notices”…

Wrexham Council further replied,

£32k was put aside to cover cost of TROs, as at the time of the initial query, we were not sure how many roads were requiring changes by TRO. Only 2 TROs were produced, via our legal team.

Our legal team also put the notices in the paper on our behalf, and the notices went in the Wrexham Leader

– The titles of the publications where the notices placed by you appeared?

The titles of the 2 documents produced were:

· The County Borough of Wrexham (Welsh Government 20mph Scheme, Various Locations. ((30mph) Speed Limit) Order 2023

o This comprised of 8 locations in which a TRO was required for the speed limit to remain at 30mph

· The County Borough of Wrexham (Welsh Government 20mph Scheme, Various Locations. ((20mph) Speed Limit) Order 2023

o This comprised of 28 locations where a TRO was currently in place for 30mph, and under Welsh Gov guidelines met the criteria required for the speed limit to drop to 20mph

We do not hold information regarding circulation figures.

 

The Audit Bureau of Circulations’ latest public certificates gives a total circulation of 3,251 for The Leader. The certificate details ‘editions’ with 35% Flintshire and 65% Wrexham. Therefore 65% of 3251 = 2114 for Wrexham and 35% = 1138 for Flintshire.

Publication name given by council Circulation from ABC certificate Publisher
Leader (Wrexham) 2114 Newsquest

 

We will update readers when the remaining 12 councils in Wales reply to the FOI….

We have previously reported how the Welsh Government spent towards a million pounds on such notices without recording any statistics on who is reading them. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌​‌‌‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌​​‌​‌​​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌‌​​‌‌​‌‍‌‌​​‌‌​​

 

Top pic: The statutory notice problem has been ongoing for years. The top image is from 2017 when we showed the Welsh Government was using taxpayers cash to pay for literally nothing‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌​‌‌‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌​​‌​‌​​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌‌​​‌‌​‌‍‌‌​​‌‌​​

Below? Several years later (last week) hard up Flintshire Council keep up the fine tradition for paying for white space just to make sure their logo looks pretty on a statutory notice – a practice that Wrexham Council binned off years ago to save cash. 



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