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Concerns raised over councils ‘gift guide’

Times Echo and Life / All News / Concerns raised over councils ‘gift guide’
5 months, 2 days agoNo Comments.
16 DEC

Concerns raised over councils ‘gift guide’

By timesecholife on in All News, Leek news

Concern has been raised over the production of a ‘Gift Guide’ for the Staffordshire Moorlands. Last week, we revealed that Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) had spent £17,000 on a ‘Gift Guide’ for the district – using some of its share of the Government’s ‘Welcome Back’ fund.

Concern has been raised over the production of a ‘Gift Guide’ for the Staffordshire Moorlands.

Last week, we revealed that Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) had spent £17,000 on a ‘Gift Guide’ for the district – using some of its share of the Government’s ‘Welcome Back’ fund.

Since then traders, residents and community leaders alike have raised concern over the cost of the production and marketing of the Gift Guide; how the businesses were singled out to appear in the guide; the proportion of businesses which were featured from the three Moorlands towns; and also that no one appears to have received a physical copy of the guide yet – even though SMDC had stated in its original press release about the guide that it had been delivered to all households in the area.

In Leek, Town Mayor councillor Lyn Swindlehurst said: “I welcome any initiative that will bring visitors to Leek and informs our local community.

As leader of Leek Town Council I am disappointed that there was a lost opportunity to work collaboratively across all key stakeholders to make the best use of the Welcome Back fund to regenerate our town.

A brochure to local people highlighting only a few businesses so very close to Christmas I feel may have missed the boat.”

Meanwhile, fellow Leek councillor Matt Swindlehurst, said: “The brochure was produced without any consultation with the town council. We were informed about a meeting that was held at SMDC back in early September to discuss their £34,000 budget for signage and promotion.
I was told that town councils would not be invited.
“They stated that the budget was for: “Welcome Back Signage – design, printing and installation of printed signage including any planning fees. The material will include a seasonal element to be rotated alongside the core messages for Autumn (Halloween), Christmas shopping and Spring (2022). Place Marketing – the council will procure a marketing agency to work with local traders and groups to promote positive stories and reasons to visit the town centres, distributing these via a range of media including (but not limited to) social media, blog posts, traditional press, short videos and radio interviews.”
“I discussed the brochure with SMDC officers, pointing out that we had a thriving arts centre with a full calendar of events as well as two new town centre bistros. Our markets, including the Sunday Supplement markets, should also have been part of the brochure. I was told that none of this would be included.
“Leek has run a full programme of welcome back events since September, including family fun days, concerts, arts trails, and laser shows. We have also supported the fantastic Totally Locally movement in the town with their Halloween Bat Hunt.

We would have expected SMDC to have used part of their budget to promote these events. This would have bought more people, and especially families, into the town centres in better weather to enjoy a variety of entertainments.
“Sadly, as we see with the markets, opportunities are lost due to SMDC’s apparent inability to work with town councils in a positive and collegiate fashion.”

The Times & Echo contacted SMDC about the concerns which have been raised over the Gift Guide.

In response, SMDC leader, councillor Sybil Ralphs, said: “The Christmas Gift Guide and social media campaign are very much aimed at encouraging people back onto the high street to rediscover the fantastic shops and businesses in the Moorlands and, thereby, supporting all traders in the local area.

It was never intended to be a business register of all traders – it just wouldn’t have been possible to put all of the 450 plus retailers in a single guide. The shops included in the publication were all originally nominated by local employees and only those with a physical shop selling gifts commonly given at Christmas were included.

Quite a number of businesses contacted, including those in rural areas, either declined to be included or failed to provide information in time for publication. The balance between the retailers in each town reflects this – as well as the nature of the products sold and the fact that Leek has 248 retailers, compared to 101 in Cheadle and 84 in Biddulph.”

Cllr Ralphs added: “I share concerns regarding the distribution of the guides. They were with the distribution company in mid-November so it is disappointing that people have not yet received them and we are liaising with the company on a daily basis.

The council has delivered strong and responsive support for businesses throughout the pandemic. The vast majority of discretionary funding has been granted directly to businesses with more than £3 million made in payments on top of the £45 million in mandatory grants.

This has been well received with many businesses contacting us to express their gratitude for the timely support they have received from the council.

Our commitment to businesses will continue into the New Year with plans for a local food guide highlighting some of the fantastic restaurant and pubs in our district as well as some significant tourism campaigns to encourage visitors to book early for stays in the Moorlands for Spring and Summer.”

The Times & Echo also quizzed SMDC over a new ‘Town Centre Manager for the Moorlands’ role which, it is believed, is also being funded out of the Welcome Back funding.

In response, an SMDC spokesman said: “The council was awarded £87,000 of Welcome Back funding for town centres, a substantial proportion of which (£52,090) has been passported to Leek, Biddulph, Cheadle and Leek Town Councils so that they could deliver local events and undertake town centre spring cleans.

A new Regeneration Officer post has also been part funded. The duties of this role have included processing of business grant applications; supporting the establishment of Cheadle taskforce stakeholder group to help develop long term engagement and improvement plans for Cheadle town centre; procurement of professional team to look at development options for Mills in Leek; and assisting town councils with delivery of their delegated funding.

The role is permanent as we want to help boost and sustain the local economy in the longer term. The job advert was openly advertised in line with normal recruitment processes.”

Community response

WE asked our readers, through our Facebook page, if they had yet received a copy, and also what they thought of the gift guide. Here’s what some of them said:

Jody Foxcroft: Was not even aware this had happened (not advertised on any local business groups from what I have seen). I have also not received a copy. Not very inclusive and I feel a complete waste of money.

Teresa Fox-Wells: I saw this and thought I’d missed an email giving me (as an independent local business) more information and an opportunity to be included. Double checked my emails and nothing to be found. Reading the “small print” in the online version (not yet had a physical copy delivered to my Leek business or Leek home) it says: “Businesses highlighted in this guide were selected under an independent journalist approach following nomination by local employees.”

So in my eyes 27 businesses each got £630 worth of free advertising, but all the many, many other local businesses didn’t even have the opportunity to be included even if they made their own financial contribution? Don’t really understand the logic behind this. Doesn’t seem a very inclusive use of much needed funding that could’ve helped many more businesses reach a wider audience through the distribution and associated online presence.

John Burnett: Not seen anything about this. Feels like another – as expected – waste of all our money.

Emma Louise Horsley: I’m pretty sure £17,000 won’t cover the cost for each household to receive a brochure in Leek and surrounding areas where council tax is paid and where this has no doubt been funded from. Apologies if I’m wrong on the funding. I’m interested to see who has received one to see the target consumer area as I have not received one. Not giving each business in town a fair opportunity to advertise is not inclusive it favours business’ over others in times when everyone needs a boost to purely survive. I see it as favoritism pure and simple. And a waste of money that can be used elsewhere.

Barry Cowie: It seems the same old retailers in Leek are getting the advertising. Wonder who is picking them again.

John Bradshaw: I haven’t received a copy but I would rather have seen this money going to Totally Locally which has a record on engaging and dialogue with local businesses.

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