AN ESTIMATED £67.85m is spent every year by local authorities to have statutory notices published in local newspapers, according to the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU).
Statutory Notices are those that a local authority is required to publish in a certain format and in a certain manner to comply with the relevant legislative requirements.
Planning Application notices are an example of this and are quite often seen tied to lamp posts or printed in blocks of small-text in local newspapers.
The LGiU suggests that an expenditure of over £67m is a rather large public spend under today’s current local media landscape.
In an article on Reforming Statutory Notices the LGiU notes:
- readership of local newspapers is declining, dailies are turning to weeklies, and some papers are ceasing print editions full stop.
- the number, and readership, of citizen-led hyperlocal / community websites meanwhile has been increasing – and their use and appreciation by elected members and officers has been too.
- web technology allows for simple, cost-effective and publication on the internet. Feeds and widgets could allow notifications to be delivered straight to people via email or text, indirectly through traditional media websites, hyperlocal blogs or community forums, making use of geotags and smartphone applications.
An effective way of ensuring that local residents get to see the Statutory Notices that relate to them, might be to publish them via local hyperlocal websites. The notices, for example, could be published and summarised on an online map of the local area, accessible by computers, tablets and mobile phones, so that residents can very quickly and easily see if a particular notice is of relevance to them.
The income that hyperlocal websites could derive from providing this local information on behalf of a local council could also help secure their sustainability – and because of their lower overheads, would be at a fraction of the costs of advertising in newspapers.
This would not replace, but enhance the essential public notices services already provided by local newspapers.
East Riding Council has recently advertised a 4-year contract for a tender to provide “A framework agreement to allow East Riding of Yorkshire Council to meet its statutory obligations to publish notices and advertise other items of interest to residents.”
The criteria for making the award is on “lowest price”. It will certainly be of interest to see what transpires from this procurement exercise.