Council's advert error'

PUBLISHED: 13:40 16 November 2006 | UPDATED: 11:14 06 May 2010

A COUNCIL has admitted it was wrong to broadcast adverts promoting its services in the run-up to a local election. Three adverts commissioned by Stevenage Borough Council were broadcast on Hertbeat FM in April and May this year. The ads boasted that 75 pe

A COUNCIL has admitted it was wrong to broadcast adverts promoting its services in the run-up to a local election.

Three adverts commissioned by Stevenage Borough Council were broadcast on Hertbeat FM in April and May this year.

The ads boasted that 75 per cent of residents were happy with the council's services and 81 per cent found staff helpful.

Earlier this year Hertbeat FM was slapped on the wrists by independent regulators Ofcom which said that these figures appeared to celebrate the achievements of the elected council and therefore supported the ruling Labour party.

And now the borough council has admitted it too was at fault.

The council's monitoring officer has concluded that it was in breach of a section of the Local Government Act 1986.

The Act says that a local authority should not publish anything which appears to be designed to influence public support for a political party.

At a meeting of the council's executive scheduled to take place last night, after The Comet went to press, councillors were due to discuss what to do next, including how to recover the £763.75 spent on the adverts.

A council spokesman said: "Yes, an error was made and we have reported this to executive so that they can consider a set of recommendations to make sure that this cannot and will not happen again.

"We are reporting this to the appropriate body which is the district auditor and we will follow any further guidance given to us."

Lib Dem councillor Robin Parker said: "The council has spent money illegally and therefore broken the law by commissioning and paying for these adverts.

"I was the one who queried the adverts in the first place and referred them to Ofcom and had it investigated.

"I am pleased the matter is now sorted out and the facts have come to light as a result of my actions.

"It proves the need for a Liberal Democrat opposition on the council so that when things go wrong I can draw attention to them.

"I have also investigated it and spent hours talking to the officers about it and I am as sure as I can be that it was a mistake not a conspiracy.

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