Local Government Association counters social media spend attack

The Local Government Association (LGA)'s comms head has hit back at accusations that councils are wasting money on social media.

Real-time information: David Holdstock defended council spending on social media (Credit: Getty Images/Wavebreak Media)
Real-time information: David Holdstock defended council spending on social media (Credit: Getty Images/Wavebreak Media)
FOI requests made by the MailOnline revealed this week that local authorities had spent more than £3.2m on social media since 2010/11.
The figure, based on responses from 129 councils, prompted critics to label the spending a "waste", with claims the councils should instead focus on lowering council tax.
However, the LGA’s director of comms David Holdstock defended local authorities, stating the money spent was part of "councils listening and responding to the needs of their residents".
"It seems to be the view that if the public sector is at least up to date, let alone ahead of the curve, when it comes to technology then it is accused of wasting money," he said.
"However, if you look at the business world you see social media fully integrated into the communications mix."
The FOI covered staff costs, employee training, technology purchases and advertising.
It pointed to Newcastle City Council as having spent the most, with a total of £147,480 since 2010/11, and revealed that seven other councils had spent more than £100,000 over this period.
TaxPayers' Alliance campaign director Robert Oxley criticised the use of social media, telling the MailOnline: "Town halls should focus on keeping council tax low, not wasting it on barely followed Twitter accounts."
However, Holdstock pointed to social media as a way of saving money through delivering information to the public, highlighting its use in co-ordination with other services during the storms this winter. 
He added: "People will want information from their council in different ways, and there will always be the need for for people to talk to someone on the phone, but social media helps augment other local information.
"If a local newspaper is weekly or even daily there is often no way of  a council getting info out in real time, and you’ll often find local journalists are retweeting the information."

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