Council splurged £300k on printing

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CASH-STRAPPED Hastings Borough Council spent almost £300,000 on printing and photocopying in the last year alone.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act showed the local authority – which is facing up to the financial nightmare of cutting its outgoings in half within four years – shelled out £223,983 on printing and a further £59,610 on photocopying.

More than £10,000 of that sum (£11,292) went on printing and copying agendas for council meetings.

And, when confronted with the figures by the Observer, a council spokesman said the authority was launching a Think Before You Ink campaign to encourage staff to be more responsible - by printing off a series of posters to be hung next to photocopiers.

The council defended the spend, saying the bare figure was misleading because it included amounts which the authority has subsequently recouped.

These include £23,000 spent on printing for local elections, which was reimbursed by central government.

Kevin Boorman, speaking on behalf of the council, said: “A lot of it (the cost) goes on providing information to residents and visitors.

“Around £55,000 was spent on tourism marketing, promoting Hastings and 1066 Country.

“Much of these printing costs are met by the advertising revenue received from the attractions, guest houses and B&Bs advertising within the guides.”

The council officer added that the result of the Big Conversation (a survey which itself cost £17,000) showed local people wanted the authority to continue promoting Hastings as a tourist destination.

Programmes for the Seafood and Wine Festival and the town’s various museums and annual events were also costed into the overall outlay.

And Mr Boorman added: “We also spent money on printing information for residents, on subjects as diverse as Active Hastings, concessionary travel, and the cemetery and crematorium.

“Just under £60,000 was spent on photocopying, and we are trying hard to reduce these costs. Over the last few weeks we have been preparing a Think Before You Ink campaign encouraging staff to use black and white copying rather than colour, reminding them that colour ink is more expensive than rocket fuel.

“We are doing all we can to reduce our internal printing and photocopying costs.”

However, the spend - and the new campaign - was criticised by the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which monitors spending levels of local authorities.

Charlotte Linacre, campaign manager at the alliance, said: “The council urgently needs to get its spending under control.

“It’s ridiculous that a campaign to reduce printing was kicked off by printing posters. This shows a worrying lack of common sense and unfortunately dealing with an issue of overspending by spending more money is all too common.

“Ordinary taxpayers are unfairly burdened as a result, footing the bill for these lax attitudes to cost.”