A video starring Wirral Council’s political leader and its chief executive explaining how to fill in a questionnaire over major budget cuts cost more than £5,700 to produce.
With Cllr Phil Davies and Graham Burgess preparing to release details of how they will slash a staggering £40m from the budget at next Thursday’s cabinet meeting, lavishing £5,770 of public cash for their video seems unlikely to receive universal approval.
And the council has admitted that only 1,500 people viewed the film on its wesbite.
Mills Media was commissioned to shoot the film following a competitive procedure, which involved obtaining quotes from three local companies, to produce the video for the “What Really Matters” public consultation exercise.
The video also featured “a number of staff” explaining the context of each question and giving instructions on how best to complete the form.
A statement released this week in response to a Freedom of Information request from Wirral resident Paul Cardin says: “This video was not intended primarily to promote the project, but was rather designed to improve the accessibility of the consultation.”
Almost every service the council provides - from street lighting to children’s centres, lollipop patrols to care homes, library opening hours to road sweeping plus the maintaining of beaches and public parks - is under scrutiny with the public being asked to help form opinion on what should be axed and what will be spared.
Mr Burgess has already come in for criticism for spending £25,000 on refurbishing his own and other directors’ offices at Wallasey Town Hall.
He said the refurbishment was necessary as the council's directors are presently based at half-a-dozen different sites; having them all in the town hall would make for more cohesive management.
Justifying the revamp was not helped when it was revealed it had gone ahead without heritage planning consents needed to carry out modifications on the Grade II listed building, and the authority was forced to apply for “retro” permission for work that had already been done.
A council spokesman said: “The consultation underway across Wirral – and encompassing over 300,000 residents – is the largest and most important exercise of its kind ever conducted by the council.
“The savings the council is being forced to make as a consequence of central government cuts to funding mean that wholesale reform to the services we deliver or commission is inevitable.
“It is vital that everyone across the borough realises the severity of our position and has their say on the options for savings being proposed.
“These options vary in their complexity and nature and potentially have life-changing implications for many residents, including many with disabilities or learning difficulties who might find the standard questionnaire harder to access than others."
The spokesman continued: "To aid this, we produced various accessible tools such as easy-read and interactive versions of the consultation questionnaire, and three step-by-step video guides, covering each of the significant budget options being put forward.
“The cost of this film – which can be found on our website and have received almost 1,500 views – was £5,722.
"However, given our statutory obligation to consult with our residents, the wide-reach these films have had and, not least, the excellent feedback received from Wirral residents with learning disabilities, we are confident they represent good value.”