Islington Council ‘spends more on spin than it does on crime’

Islington Council has come under fire for employing more “spin doctors” than crime staff and splurging nearly �250,000 on a new website.

The Liberal Democrat opposition has attacked the council for the size of its communications team – currently 18 strong – compared with the community safety team, which numbers 13 council officers and no police.

Communications staff deal with press enquiries and getting messages to the public.

The Lib Dems also criticised the decision to spend �235,000 on the website, which launched last week.

They claimed �25,000 had been spent on branding for a new housing management service, which will replace the soon-to-be-defunct Homes for Islington.

A freedom of information request seen by the Gazette also shows the council spent almost �620,000 on publicity in the financial year ending April 2011, including more than �200,000 on brochures and magazines.

Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of Islington’s Lib Dem group, said: “It is shocking that Labour councillors think spending �235,000 on a new website is a priority when crime is rising in Islington.

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“This money could pay for six police officers fighting crime on the borough’s streets. But it seems that spin and presenting Labour councillors in the best possible light is more important.

“How can any resident take Labour’s claims of poverty seriously when they are spending so much on their image while cutting other services and stashing money away in the kitty?

“These figures show where Labour councillors’ priorities really lie. Spin doctors putting the best possible gloss on the council’s work are more important than crime fighters.”

A council spokesman said the website, which attracts millions of hits a year, used old software and would cost a lot of money just to maintain in its current state.

He also said the cost of rebranding housing management would be closer to �8,000 and that �25,000 was an earlier estimate.

Cllr Richard Greening, the council’s executive member for finance, said: “At a time of massive government cuts, our website is the most cost-effective way of getting information to residents.

“This investment will cut the cost to taxpayers and make it easier for people to use, for anything from ordering parking permits to paying council tax.

“We have already slashed the money we spend on communications by almost �1million a year.”