Local authorities have splurged a whopping £1.3 million tracking the press and social media for mentions of themselves over the last five years, it has emerged.
They have justified the huge spend on the grounds that it helps ensure a good service, but critics have pointed out that spending the money on useful services would reduce the need to continually monitor for negative feedback.
According to the figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, Birmingham was the biggest spender on social media, blowing £108,915 checking Google and Twitter for mentions of itself. £66,367 of that was spent in 2010 alone, a year in which the Labour run authority cut back on adult social services, libraries, and care homes for the elderly.
It was closely followed by Tower Hamlets in East London, which spent £103,500, and Kent County Council, which dropped £93,277 on the practice, according to the Mail on Sunday.
A Birmingham Council spokesman said that online monitoring was necessary “to ensure information to residents can be evaluated to see if it is reaching the public and other target audiences”.
But Jonathan Isaby, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance countered: “If councils focused on delivering a better service for taxpayers, perhaps they wouldn’t have to spend so much checking for damaging publicity.”