Posted: Tue 29th Aug 2023

Welsh Government: £800k of Taxpayers’ money spent on newspaper Statutory Notices

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Aug 29th, 2023

The Welsh Government has reportedly spent £800,000 on statutory notices over a two-year period but does not hold any information on the circulation of the publications in which the notices were placed.

The revelation came to light after our sister site Wrexham.com filed a Freedom of Information request to uncover the range of spend, number of notices, and the titles of the publications used.

Statutory notices are dull but important notices usually buried in the back of newspapers with declining circulations – not for any advertising, job adverts or other spending. ‌

“Obviously if you were spending vast sums to speak to the public you would want to make sure you knew that was happening, so we asked for the last recorded circulations held by Welsh Government per publication. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​” Wrexham.com notes.

In response, the Welsh Government said: they “do not hold information on the circulation of these publications”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Welsh Government provided two tables indicating that the notices appeared in various publications, including one in Belfast, the Liverpool Daily Post, and the Daily Post in North Wales. Interestingly, the Liverpool Daily Post was closed by Trinity Mirror in 2013, raising questions about the effectiveness of the placement.

Welsh Government Statutory Notices for 2021/22 : ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Total number: 366 ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Total Cost: £424,226.00 ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Publications used: ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Abergavenny Chronicle
Belfast Gazette
Brecon + Radnorshire Express
Cambrian News
Carmarthen Journal
Daily Post
Denbighshire Free Press
Liverpool Daily Post
London Gazette
Merthyr Express
Monmouthshire Beacon
North Wales Weekly News
Pontypridd + Llantrisant Observer
SW Argus
SW Echo
SW Evening Post
The Leader (Wrexham/Flint/Chester)
Welshpool County Times
Western Mail
Western Telegraph ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The list is similar a year later. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Welsh Government Statutory Notices for 2022/23 ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Total number: 315 ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Total Cost: £394,138.88 ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Publications used: ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Abergavenny Chronicle
Brecon + Radnorshire Express
Cambrian News
Carmarthen Journal
Caernarfon + Denbigh Herald
Daily Post
Denbighshire Free Press
Glamorgan Gazette
Gwent Gazette
London Gazette
Merthyr Express
Monmouthshire Beacon
North Wales Weekly News
SW Argus
SW Echo
SW Evening Post
The Leader (Wrexham)
Welshpool County Times
Western Mail
Western Telegraph ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

 

The Welsh Government has expressed concerns about destabilising the current model of public and legal notices in publications, as they are seen as strong pillars for supporting the industry.

The Wales Public Interest Journalism Working Group recently recommended disseminating statutory public notices via a range of appropriate providers of public interest journalism in Wales.

The group also noted that some local print titles in Wales would no longer be viable if public notices were removed.

Additionally, there is a suggestion that the Welsh Government should publish an annual report detailing advertising and marketing investment through communications teams within the Welsh Government, the Senedd, local authorities, and other public bodies.

This would help assess where these investments could be better spent through providers of public interest journalism.

The UK law on statutory notices is also under review by the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee into the “Sustainability of local journalism”.

The UK Government responded to the report in May ( readable in full here ), noting the reason for the reluctance to act, “The independent Cairncross Review found that statutory notices are an important source of revenue for local newspapers.

The government is mindful that sudden withdrawal of statutory notices would seriously damage the sector and is therefore cautious about potential adverse impacts on an already fragile industry.

The Welsh Government’s expenditure on statutory notices raises questions about the effectiveness and accountability of public spending.

With no circulation data available for the publications used and some notices placed in closed or distant publications, there is a need for greater transparency and assessment of the current approach to ensure public funds are used effectively and responsibly.

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