Peter Holt: Why does the Government still want us to pretend we live in the 19th Century?

If there's one thing you can rely on Eric Pickles for, it's that he's always eminently quotable. Even if we're on the receiving end of his invective, as PR people, we've at least got to admire someone who consistently gives good copy.

Peter Holt: Why must taxpayer pay for statutory notices?
Peter Holt: Why must taxpayer pay for statutory notices?

So tell me Secretary of State, in your famously plain-speaking way, how on earth can it still be reasonable in this day and age for the tax-payer to be required by law to foot the bill for the printing of endless and unintelligible statutory notices in the backs of local newspapers?

Obviously it’s still perfectly right and proper before planning applications or traffic orders are approved that residents and businesses in the area are informed and consulted. Notices on nearby lamp-posts, personal letters to nearby houses, posters in nearby libraries and community centres, online adverts; they all make sense – people can see them and have their say before decisions are taken.

4,000 people in Bristol and beyond watched our live web-cast last week of a development control committee considering a supermarket planning application last week – but none of them came to it by reading an obscure ad in the back of the Bristol Evening Post.

But no – instead we still have to pay for full page adverts on page 40 or 50 of the local paper, lodged between the premium line adverts (Flirt now – fun live chat – choose from ‘domination’, ‘mature’ or ‘fetish’ lines – only 60p per minute from a BT landline).

Not just full page statutory notices, but made up of endless paragraphs of impenetrable legalese.  Not a single map or artist’s impression in sight, and plain English ruled out by statute too.

Seriously Mr Pickles, seriously?  Previous Governments haven’t grasped this nettle before you, but will you? Wouldn’t it make the oft-quoted Mrs Pickles ever-so proud?

A hefty six figures sum in my Council area alone.  Repeated across the whole country, this is many, many millions of pounds of tax-payers’ money wasted.

I don’t want a single local paper to go out of business – least of all in my city.

But if the Government is going to be serious about us all living in the modern age and cutting out waste, especially in frothy areas like council advertising, can we either have some action, or at least a little more up-front plain speaking about this scarcely-hidden, legally-enforced subsidy to newspaper barons?

Peter Holt [tweeting @peterholt99] is communication and marketing director at Bristol City Council, and is vice-chair of the CIPR local public services group.

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