DERBYSHIRE County Council has defended its free newspaper after a national pressure group branded it “full of propaganda”.
A freedom of information request by the Derbyshire Times has revealed the cash-strapped authority spent £163,535 on producing the publication over the last year.
The newspaper, called Derbyshire First, is delivered to 330,000 households across the county.
On its website, the council – which needs to save £96m and axe 2,000 jobs by 2015 as a result of the squeeze on public spending – states: “Derbyshire First is our free quarterly newspaper bringing you all the latest news and developments from around Derbyshire.”
But Emma Boon, campaigns director for pressure group the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “This magazine isn’t really free – residents are paying for it through their council tax, yet many of them won’t want it or read it.
“It’s one thing for a local authority to publicise services and ensure people have the information they need about them – it’s quite another to print a magazine like Derbyshire First, full of puff-pieces and propaganda.
“Derbyshire County Council should scrap their mag to make a swift, painless saving for taxpayers.”
A Derbyshire County Council spokesman said: “Derbyshire First costs just over 50p a year per Derbyshire household to produce and distribute, making it one of the most cost effective ways we can keep local people informed about our services, how we’re spending their money and what we’re doing across the county.
“Many people contact us as a direct result of reading information we publicise in Derbyshire First. For example, we recruited about 40 potential foster carers through Derbyshire First.
“We have a legal duty to publicise our services and if we did not use Derbyshire First the cost to council taxpayers would increase dramatically.”
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