Liverpool council asks departments to pay for Christmas cards costing up to £7 each CASH-STRAPPED city bosses were today branded “crackers” for asking departments to spend taxpayers’ cash on Christmas cards costing up to £7 each.
The personalised greetings, bearing a picture of the waterfront, were on offer with a starting price of £353 – for just 50 cards.
That meant for one employee to buy and send one card would cost around the same as the hourly wage of a council care worker.
Both ruling and opposition leaders are far from festive about the deal.
The council is facing an £11m budget black hole in 2010 and may have to shed 1,000 jobs over the next three years.
Liberal Democrat executive member for ethical governance Paula Keaveney – whose brief includes council marketing – said the prices were “not justifiable” and has called for a report on the issue.
She added: “These costs cannot be justified. I am personally appalled that this has happened and I will make sure that next year’s approach to council Christmas cards will be very different.
“In the short term I am urging council staff who need to send cards for business reasons to use the electronic version of the Christmas card which after all costs nothing and is more in tune with our Year of the Environment.
“I will be asking the chief executive to reinforce this message.
“In the longer term this will simply not happen again.
“I am going to ensure that there is a review of the council's needs for Christmas cards, the process for production and the costs involved.
“This will include the possibilities of charity tie-ins and other potentially creative avenues.
“As a first step I will be calling for a report to me about the processes followed this time.”
Red-faced town hall bosses now claim the price list was “misleading”, and that cheaper cards without personalised messages on the inside are also available.
They tried to reassure that the price was “including envelope” and said any department which wants to order the more expensive cards will have to spend a minimum of £443 to get a better deal, with the cards then costing just under £1 each.
But critics said it was unthinkable that the council could not have got better value for money across the board.
Labour group Cllr Nick Small, who first queried the prices, added the Labour group had cancelled its order.
Cllr Small added: “At a time when frontline services are looking at cuts, it is outrageous – crackers, you might say – to ask departments to spend £7 on Christmas cards. The marketing and spin doctors at the council seem to be living on another planet.”
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers in Liverpool would rather have this money in their pockets to help pay for their own family celebrations rather than having it squandered.”
A council spokesman added that now “no Christmas card will cost more than £1 each – and much less the more cards are ordered.” THE ECHO