Ad campaign costs council over $6500
The Nelson City Council has spent over $6500 of ratepayers' money in three months on a campaign to promote what it does.
The money came from the approved annual publicity budget, acting chief executive Richard Johnson said.
He said the My City My Council campaign, which has been fronted by council staff, was funded from the publicity activity budget.
"The campaign costs are within the budget and are not over and above the budget approved for 2012-13," Mr Johnson said.
The council budgeted $197,500 this year for public communications, excluding salaries, council community relations manager Angela Ricker said.
The council employs seven staff to handle communications, some of whom work part time.
Ms Ricker said it was not easy to compare expenditure with last year, because she had shifted the budget allocation from a business unit budget to the sub-activity called "council publicity", to gain greater transparency.
Mr Johnson said for the financial year to date, spending on the My City campaign in July was $2485, made up of $130 spent with Fresh FM community access radio, $1760 spent on print promotion in the Nelson Weekly and $595 spent on online advertising with Fairfax Media's Stuff site.
In August, $1940 was spent with the Nelson Weekly, $430 with Stuff and $174 with Fresh FM. Producer-host costs for the council-funded radio show with Fresh FM from July to September were $1625, resulting in a total cost so far of $6654.
Concerns were raised at a council meeting this week about the use of ratepayer funds to promote the work of the council, and over plans to to profile councillors further via the council's own publication, Live Nelson.
Councillor Rachel Reese queried whether the My City My Council campaign was to be extended to feature councillors, which she said would compromise the council.
Deputy Mayor Ali Boswijk told the Nelson Mail this week that councillors would not be featuring in a similar campaign, because that would be against the rules.
Councillor Ruth Copeland said the objective of the campaign was discussed at a recent workshop, which was open to all councillors. She said the "brown-bag luncheon" was designed to update councillors.
Councillor Ian Barker, who chaired Tuesday's audit, risk and finance committee meeting where the issue was raised, said the workshop was to inform councillors of forthcoming methods for engagement with the public.
He said it was led by staff who have responsibility for council publicity and community relations, and they outlined their plans for the future.
Mr Barker also said he would have preferred the My City campaign to have come before the council's governance committee before it was adopted.
Mr Johnson said the meeting to discuss future communications "was not a workshop, was not mandatory, was not public or public-excluded. It was an optional gathering at lunch and four councillors attended," Mr Johnson said.
He said the lunch session was not at all related to the My City My Council campaign.
A report was to come back to the council on matters raised this week about council communications.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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