The PR Guru

July 21, 2010

Stoke Council’s £1.6m PR budget – what was it spent on?

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardswancott @ 2:10 pm
Tags: , ,

The Sentinel has gone quite big on this story today. Basically Stoke-on-Trent City Council has spent £1.6m on public relations in the past year alone – a massive 145% higher than the PR budget for 2008 and a £178000 overspend on what they budgeted for in the 2009/10 budget.

Now I’m sure our council is not the only local authority to have spent lots of taxpayers’ cash on their image and reputation. A study in 2008 found the average spend to be £972000, with 133 authorities spending more than £1m a year, and six spending more than £5m.

There is definitely a need for councils to communicate with residents on the facilities available to them.  The question which needs to be asked is whether as taxpayers we get the best return on our investment – what exactly do they spend our money on?

Given the fact Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s reputation is basically in the gutter, and the image of the city as a whole is not much better, surely we deserve some transparency on where the £1.6m went? That would go a long way to appeasing people like me and improving the council’s image.

This is needed more now than ever, in the context of huge public spending cuts and our council alone having to slash £30m from their budget.

Logically, the next question is where can they save money? Well they could start by outsourcing to local suppliers (or indeed any suppliers!), and making more use of social media. Of course I am a little biased here, being a Stoke-on-Trent PR agency! But I am a taxpayer as well so I would be just as happy if they were using another agency – as long as they were getting value for money.

UPDATE: Stoke-on-Trent City Council has said today (Thurs) the increased spend was to pay for the city’s centenary celebration events.

Ah, ok. Remind me, which centenary celebration events were they?

The only things I can think of are the party in Hanley Park, and the 2010k road race. Is that £500000 worth of events? I very much doubt it – even though the party had a stellar line-up including Diana Vickers, Jedward and Craig David.

But what do you think?



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shell Kendall and Lee Kozlowski , Richard Swancott. Richard Swancott said: Was Stoke Council's £1.6m PR spend a good use of public cash? […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Stoke Council’s £1.6m PR budget – what was it spent on? « The PR Guru -- — July 21, 2010 @ 2:50 pm | Reply

  2. I am not native to Stoke, but I have now lived here for four years. I have lived in a few different places and have never known a council in such a mess as SOTCC.

    I would LOVE to see a breakdown of how the £1.6m was spent, I personally knew NOTHING about the party in the park until a day or two later when I saw some friends pictures on Facebook. This is despite the fact I follow the council’s official Twitter feed and check out the local news online most days. In fact, come to think of it, I canot remember the last time I saw a tweet from them! Any tweet I do see is just a link to a new article on their website.

    The PR department needs to get with the programme and understand the modern ways of communicating with folk; I personally believe that the may as well be just burning half of their current budget for the good it does.

    Comment by Michelle — July 24, 2010 @ 10:03 am | Reply

    • Exactly! I’m sure they could get better value from outsourcing to local agencies!

      All I saw about the party was an article in The Sentinel announcing the line-up. Hardly £1.6m worth of coverage!

      Comment by richardswancott — July 26, 2010 @ 11:04 am | Reply

  3. Based on the council’s own press pack I wrote about the centenary celebrations back in April ( The majority of the events were things that would happen anyway (Christmas lights switch on, Tour of Britain, Sports Personality of the Year) and so surely should have already been allocated funding (?)

    The ones that weren’t were of questionable value to the public – like the £25k Citizen of the Century celebratory meal at the town hall. It was meant to celebrate “the ordinary men and women on the streets” but nine out of the 12 award nominees were dead. The other three being ordinary people such as Gordon Banks, Phil Taylor and Robbie Williams.

    As for the two events you mention – the 2010k race was sponsored by Staffordshire University and the 2010 live music event had many other sponsors (

    Revealing where all the money went would be the first step in making things right but I’m not holding my breath. I am glad I no longer live in a place where the council spend more in a year on commemorative umbrellas than I did on council tax. (

    Comment by Jon Harrington — September 22, 2010 @ 9:45 pm | Reply

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