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Council accused of promoting ‘puff pieces’ in the media at expense of Dales’ bus routes

Wednesday, 28 February 2024 15:01

By Thomas Barrett, Local Democracy Reporter

Picture: Transdev

North Yorkshire Council has been accused of spending money on “puff pieces” about its achievements at the expense of saving bus routes in the Dales.

The council has a communications team that produces press releases for the media on a range of subjects but Cllr Andy Brown (Green Party, Aire Valley) has suggested it is not always money well spent.

At a full meeting of the council in Northallerton, Cllr Brown put forward an amendment to the budget that asked to take £200,000 from its marketing spend so it could be used on local bus routes instead.  Cllr Brown referred to the Skipton to Grassington 72 route, which saw bus operator Transdev introduce a new two-hourly service last year due to commercial pressures.  He said: “Scarcely a day goes by without a statement from this council’s marketing team about how well we’re doing. We should not be using taxpayers’ money to justify puff pieces in the local paper.”  

Cllr Andy Brown

A ‘puff piece’ is an article or story in the media that is excessively complimentary about a person, product or event.

Whilst Cllr Brown said he supported press releases on public information matters such as bin collections, he said some of the marketing budget would be better spent on bus services in the Dales that have been cut in recent months and years.  He added: “It’s so damaging to some of these local villages to find they have more and more car traffic and less public transport going into the Dales at the exact time we should be trying to increase it.”

But his amendment received little support from councillors with Cllr Monika Slater (Liberal Democrat, Bilton Grange & New Park) calling it “fundamentally wrong”. She added: “Communication is key so that our residents know what we’re doing.”

Conservative council leader Cllr Carl Les went further and described Cllr Brown’s proposal as “bonkers”.

Executive member for transport Cllr Keane Duncan defended the council’s approach to buses and said they are benefitting from £3.5m from government which was given to the authority following the cancellation of the northern legs of HS2.  He said the council will release details on how it will support 31 more bus routes next month.  Cllr Duncan said: “We had 79 bus routes at risk last year, not a single route has been lost and it’s a significant reversal of fortune that we should all welcome. The amendment talks about £200,000, but we are investing £3.5m extra in total thanks to government and it represents the most significant funding boost in North Yorkshire in over a decade.”

Cllr Brown’s amendment was voted down by 76 votes to 4.

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