Council to scrap monthly newspaper
CORNWALL Council is to scrap its much-criticised newspaper, which cost the taxpayer almost £700,000 in just 11 months.
The new Conservative-dominated authority is getting rid of Your Cornwall – which was introduced by the last Liberal Democrat administration of Cornwall County Council with a budgeted cost of £423,000 a year.
But the paper was beset by problems – it lost its first editor before it even printed a single copy – and has been cancelled in favour of a more localised – and cheaper – approach to publicity.
It eventually cost £693,000 for 11 editions – an overspend of £270,000.
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The council now says it can free around £65,000 for frontline services by binning the paper in favour of using traditional forms of media to reach the public, such as existing local newspapers and radio networks.
The authority said it is also to embrace new forms of communications, including social networking websites Facebook and Twitter, alongside blogs by councillors, to connect with the electorate and focus on local issues.
Coun Alec Robertson, leader of Cornwall Council, said: "We are serious about delivering improvements for the people of Cornwall, both in our frontline services and in the way we let people know what their council is doing. It is important to face up to what is and isn't working with honesty and to take appropriate measures at an early stage where changes need to be made.
"It is clear that Your Cornwall, which was part of the former county council's plan to improve the way it communicated with the public, is not working and is costing too much."
The newspaper faced criticism and ridicule from the start.
In May last year, the Western Morning News reported how the then Cornwall County Council had spent more than £42,000 on the scheme before a single edition appeared.
Stephen Bough was hired by Cornwall County Council in April 2007 as managing editor on a salary of £40,000 a year. But he quit and left after just over a year, also in May 2008.
The council budgeted £400,000 a year for a free, colour, tabloid newspaper of up to 24 pages, to be published once a month, with around 250,000 copies printed.
In July 2008 it was revealed the newspaper had been classified as "junk" by the Royal Mail, which refused to deliver it.
The first edition also ran without adverts – meaning the council lost thousands of pounds in revenue – because it would have missed Royal Mail's deadline for delivery if they waited for the information. In June this year it was criticised during the election for the new unitary council after the then Lib-Dem controlled body sent out an edition just days before the poll.
Independent councillor Mark Kaczmarek, a long-term opponent of Your Cornwall and now cabinet member for housing, proposed cancelling the paper. He called the project a "disaster", adding: "We should be using our local newspapers to communicate with local people.
"There will be a few quick fixes for the new administration, and this was one of them."