Public notices: Essex saves £1.5m

As part of LGiU’s investigation into how councils publish public notices we are collecting case studies from councils who are experimenting with innovative ideas within the current legal requirements. Here is a guest post from Essex County Council.

Essex County Council is on course to save nearly £1.5million over three years after spearheading an initiative for advertising public notices.

It is a legal requirement for local authorities to pay to advertise public or statutory notices, which cover a range of subjects from telling residents about planned road closures in their area to changes to local education provision.

However, advertising costs can be high which is why the council put the business out to tender last year. And this proactive approach has meant a lower advertising rate which has ensured residents can continue to access public notices from the local media.

The move forms part of Essex County Council’s drive to make more than £300 million of savings by 2012/2013 – the largest savings target in local government history – while still protecting vital frontline services.

Richard Puleston, Essex County Council’s assistant chief executive and director of strategic services, said: “Statutory notice rates have traditionally been impossible to reduce in cost – after all councils have no choice but to place them – but Essex County Council is always resolute in its pursuit of best value for money and savings council taxpayers’ money.

“In a ground-breaking deal, ECC was able to negotiate savings of £1.5million over three years by changing the way it advertises statutory notices.”

The council carried out the procurement exercise with media agency TMP Worldwide, which provided technical support and management of the review process. Following a competitive tender the advertising contract was won by Newsquest Essex and Herts and Essex Newspapers.

The agreement is expected to make a predicted saving of 58% or £488,600 a year.

And Essex County Council is not stopping there. It has recently adopted a “digital by default” approach to its own communications and would like to see this expanded to statutory notices.

Mr Puleston added: “Unless compelling evidence exists to suggest that the current system of placing statutory notices in local press is effective and provides value for money for the taxpayer, then the council would prefer to see this money spent on frontline services.

“Therefore we would welcome investigation into an online system providing residents with tailored emailed alerts about statutory notices.”

Please visit www.reformpublicnotices.tumblr.com for more case studies.