WALTHAM FOREST: Town hall freesheet loses £150k in two years
CONTROVERSIAL council freesheet Waltham Forest News made a loss to the taxpayer of £150,000 in the last two years, it has emerged.
The authority's Labour leadership had previously claimed that the fortnightly publication paid for itself in advertising.
But figures obtained by opposition Liberal Democrat councillors have uncovered that this is not the case, with office costs and other expenses outstripping its income.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Bob Sullivan said that the magazine did not keep residents fully informed and contained no scrutiny of the council.
He said: "For years I have been told that this Labour propaganda pays for itself with advertising and doesn't cost council tax-payers anything.
"But it turns out the council had been hiding the real costs.
"Surely when Labour councillors are cutting our libraries, taking millions out of our children's services and closing down nursing homes, luxuries like this Labour Party propaganda sheet are an expense residents can no longer afford?"
The figures show that in the 2011/12 financial year the magazine cost £469,000 to produce but made £364,000 in revenue.
Of that income, only around £44,000 came from external advertisers, with the rest coming from internal council advertising - itself also public money.
This was on costs such as public notices, which the authority has a legal obligation to publish and previously were printed in local newspapers such as the Waltham Forest Guardian.
The council predicts the freesheet will make £33,000 profit this financial year, but a spokesman was unable to explain how when the Guardian asked.
He said a recent survey showed that 73 per cent of respondents had recently read Waltham Forest News, with 81 per cent of those finding it "useful".
The survey has not yet been published and the council was unable to provide further details of it.
A previous survey in 2011 quizzed 502 residents and found that 66 per cent had seen it within six months, with 71 per cent of those finding it useful.
However the report's authors said its impact was limited, with the freesheet making little difference on people's views of the council. A total of 22 per cent said they thought highly of the authority.
A council spokesman said: "The recharge [extra cost] figures being highlighted relate to overheads such as office space, HR and finance support, which would only be avoidable if the council were to cease producing any publication to keep their residents informed."