Back in June, we reported the news that Preston City Council had launched a ‘Social Media Toolkit’, priced at £199.
The 168-page document is available to order on the council website, and describes itself as “a complete guide to joining the social media revolution”, and will also be offered to district councils for the lower price of £99.
Now a combination of an FOI request by Robert Dickins and an email sent out to local government communications departments has shed a bit more light on the motivation behind the document.
According to the Freedom of Information request, since launching the toolkit over a month ago Preston City Council have sold three copies, with the total revenue clocking in at £597 – which the Council say will go towards “supporting their overall budget position”. As of 1st August, Preston Council say they have sold a further 5 copies, bringing the overall total to 8, and revenues of £1,592 (see comments below).
The staff time invested in developing the Social Media Toolkit was “not known, not recorded” by the Council, but they say that staff working on it were in pay grades 6 and 9 (pay scales vary between local authories, and Preston have not published theirs online).
Speaking to us shortly after the toolkit launch, Stephen Parkinson, Head of Communications at Preston City Council, said:
“A common issue – would you believe – is that some councils or communications sections have difficulty with their ICT departments even allowing them access to Facebook or Twitter in the first place.
“This gives you an idea of how ‘low base’ some councils are at with their social media journey.
“Preston is one of the worst 20 hit councils in the UK for the amount cut from its Government grant. Redundancies are being made (20 compulsory in March 2011 alone) and the various budget cuts are beginning to bite.
“People are entitled to their opinions but we think that we are making a genuine attempt to share knowledge amongst councils, which we believe is needed and would be helpful for a fee which we feel is value for money.
“Especially when you compare the cost of attending courses and seminars – the learning outcomes from which are patchy as best.
“Add on travel costs, (an anytime open return ticket Preston to London is £289), and I think the £199 does seem value for money in this context”.
You can view the email sent to local government departments as I’ve embedded it below.
What do you think of Preston City Council’s decision? Let us know by voting on our poll over on our Facebook page to gauge views on what’s becoming known in local government circles as the #prestonpdf.
Social Media Toolkit Email