WALTHAM FOREST: Outrage over £18k spend on cuts adverts (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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WALTHAM FOREST: Outrage over £18k spend on cuts adverts
NEARLY £18,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent on a new campaign promoting the council’s response to funding cuts, the Guardian can reveal.
The 'What Counts' campaign has seen posters appear on telephone booths and billboards across the borough.
They show residents holding placards detailing their concerns in an attempt to show the council is protecting popular services while making savings worth £65 million.
The campaign is a follow-up to the council's 'Make Your Opinion Count' consultation exercise, which was completed by less than one per cent of the borough's population and itself cost £27,000 to promote.
Those affected by the cuts have reacted angrily to the expenditure.
Danny Herbert, 43, of Chester Road in Walthamstow, has previously spoken out over the council's decision to slash funding to the Hamara Project charity, which provides support for his nine-year-old autistic son.
He said: "It's absolutely disgraceful they are spending so much money on this while the vulnerable are suffering from cuts.
"I think that's especially the case when you consider they're promoting a consultation exercise which very few people took part in.
"It's absurd and I can't quite believe it."
The £18,000 cost includes nearly £794 for three photographs used in the campaign and £3,190 for design and artwork.
The rest was spent on advertising costs.
None of the businesses employed to carry out the work appear to be based in Waltham Forest.
Photographs were taken by Lydia Evans, who lives in Brent according to her website, with artwork designed by the Docklands-based company, Good Impressions.
According to a Freedom of Information response from the council, all those pictured in the adverts are residents and not actors.
The mother and child featured were chosen by an unnamed councillor who is thought to be a friend, while 'Pamela from Chingford' was picked by the manager of a day centre for older people.
The teenagers pictured are involved in the council's youth engagement department, according to the documents.
The council says it must save £65million over the next four years due to an unprecedented reduction in central Government funding.
Council leader Chris Robbins, said: "The ‘Make It Count’ campaign is part of a concerted push to engage with residents and keep them informed about the unprecedented financial challenges we face and the fact that virtually all of the services they receive will be affected.
"While we aim to inform residents of individual changes, this campaign provides an instantly-recognisable way to communicate these changes and what they mean to our residents in the clearest and most cost-effective manner possible.
"Beyond this, it is also best practise to tell our residents how we are acting on their views and concerns since if we are asking for their opinions in the first place."
A spokesman added that the authority must ensure value for money through the tendering process.
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