Monday, May 07, 2007

Secret 35% increase in 'Spin' budget

The problem with Council budgets and Corporate Plans is that they are an omnibus of good and bad spending proposals. On one hand the budget proposes expenditure in areas like child care and libraries and on the other hidden away in confidential briefing papers is a proposal to increase the budget for spin for the council communications unit from $5.52 million in the 2006-07 budget to $7.46 million in the 2007-08 budget - that's a whopping 35% and means more glossy brochures and more slick advertising promoting the City - and the Lord Mayor along the way. The Sydney Morning Herald reports today:

Spin cycle: council PR boost hidden in wash
  • Sunanda Creagh Urban Affairs Reporter
    May 7, 2007

THE City of Sydney council has secretly proposed increasing funding for public relations by more than 35 per cent.

A confidential document, sent only to councillors, reveals a plan to increase funding for the council communications unit from $5.52 million in the 2006-07 budget to $7.46 million in the 2007-08 budget. The unit includes public affairs, publishing services, community consultation and marketing.

"Spin! Looks like they have been taking lessons from the Labor Party," said Cr Shayne Mallard, who opposes the plan.

The money is not for the PR team of the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, which is funded separately. But Cr Mallard said the Lord Mayor still benefited.

"They are pumping out brochure after brochure with Clover's picture on it. There wasn't a communications department like this three years ago," he said, adding that the proposed change should not have been hidden in confidential papers, unable to be viewed by the public.

The document says increased funding was required "to meet demand for community consultations and higher standards for community information on council services and programs, plus consultation related to [local action plan]projects, the city's capital works and for the Sydney 2030 project in 2007-2008."

The council's chief executive, Monica Barone, said public consultation was anexpensive but important part of the council's $150 million capital works plan for the coming year.

"Every time we [propose a change] to a park or a community centre, we advertise a meeting, talk to people, bring draft designs, we do two or three meetings. Those things cost money but they really pay off," she said.

The proposed communications budget was a fraction of the council's operating expenditure and the figures would be made public once the financial plan was put on exhibition, she said.

No comments: