County council spends £40,000 on Youtube channel

A YOUTUBE row has erupted after the Lib Dems accused West Sussex County Council of “wasting” money on an “extravagant” communications budget.

Littlehampton councillor James Walsh, who is deputy leader of the county’s Lib Dems, said the YouTube unit cost the Conservative-controlled council £40,000 to set up, and a further £26,000 a year to run.

Mr Walsh said: “At a time of savage cuts to personal care services for vulnerable elderly and young people, it is astonishing that the county council can find £1million to fund its PR department, glossy ‘lifestyle’ Connections newspaper, and now even a new YouTube film unit.

“It is also a kick in the teeth for all those elderly and younger adults who have had their care packages reduced or stopped, in the name of saving cash for the county.”

The YouTube unit is designed to communicate with West Sussex residents by broadcasting videos of county services and individual interviews with Tory members. But the Lib Dems claim only 200 people had viewed the videos.

Bob Smytherman, Lib Dem councillor for Tarring, said: “The reality is that it’s a waste of money, regardless of how many people view it. Is it a good way of spending money in the current climate? Our answer has to be no.”

Mr Smytherman, who is also a county councillor, added there are better ways of spending the money.

He said: “I am not against YouTube videos and people getting out there, as I’m on Twitter myself, but that should not be done on the expenses of the public purse at a time when we are making cuts to things like adult social care.”

County council leader Louise Goldsmith condemned the Lib Dems’ comments, saying they were “scurrilous” and “littered with inaccuracies”.

She said: “Pictures are worth a thousand words, and the council has always been firmly committed to finding new ways of reaching out to, and communicating with the residents we serve.

“The YouTube film clips are a good way of keeping our residents informed in all sorts of important areas, such as Age with Confidence.

“The council decided to embrace the opportunities afforded by new technology by funding it through savings to the existing communications budget and spending less on traditional media like print, events and exhibitions – that’s good money management.”