Hackney Town Hall Photo: Hackney Citizen

Hackney Town Hall. Photograph: Hackney Citizen

Hackney Council bagged five awards at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Local Public Services Awards earlier this month. Among the prestigious awards was ‘external newspaper or magazine’ of the year – awarded for its fortnightly freesheet publication, Hackney Today.

The ‘newspaper’  is circulated to 108,000 homes and business in the borough and focuses on local council and other public services and the local people involved.

Judges at the awards praised the “outstanding publication,” adding that the “first class news and features are bright and lively”. They went on to say: “It provides essential services information traditional local newspapers would not normally include, unless paid for.”

The award should be gratefully received by staff at the council’s communications department who have been working hard to improve the council’s ‘Reputation Index score’. The result should also come as a relief in a department with a gross expenditure of £2,322,366 and an annual wage bill of over £200,000.

However, there are concerns about priorities amid a £60 million funding shortfall at the council.

In response to questions from the Hackney Citizen over communication spending, a spokesperson at the council said: “During these times of huge change, it is important that the council communicates regularly with residents to ensure they are aware of what’s happening, how they will be affected and what support is available to them from the council.”

The spokesperson added: “It is important that communications provides a value for money service which is why it has already made significant savings.”

The department plans to reduce costs by £300,000 over the course of this financial year. These savings will be made alongside other cuts taking place over the next three years to fill the £60 million funding gap.

Fortunately for its readers, it is unlikely that the award-winning Hackney Today will be affected by cutbacks as the income generated from external advertising in the 30-page freesheet contributes towards the cost of the “outstanding” production.

At the public relations awards ceremony Hackney Council was also handed awards for ‘leaflet or flyer of the year’, ‘best campaign (making the 2011 census count for Hackney)’, ‘census communication’ and ‘communicators of the year’.

There were 16 awards in total, 11 of which Hackney Council did not make the shortlist, including ‘media relations excellence’, ‘consultation excellence’ and ‘PR on a shoestring’.

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