A row is brewing over a town council-backed magazine which the town’s deputy mayor has admitted he “might make a few pounds” out of.
The first edition of the Newmarket Messenger has been delivered this week, but at a town council meeting on Monday, questions went unanswered about how much it was costing local council taxpayers and when the cost of its distribution was actually approved.
Town council records show the last time the magazine had been discussed in detail was back in January 2014 when councillors Warwick Hirst, John Berry and Bill Sadler, the publication’s self-styled editor, heard it would replace the council’s four page newsletter and the total cost to the council would be £2,808.
Cllr Sadler, the deputy mayor, declared no pecuniary interest at that time, and it was agreed the town clerk should obtain new quotes for the magazine’s distribution. Since then no detailed costings for the magazine have been publicly disclosed.
On Monday Cllr Sadler submitted a request for dispensation so he could take part in discussions of a matter in which he had a financial interest, which he later withdrew. He said the new magazine, which had paid-for advertising and would be distributed by the council, would be similar to the Mildenhall Messenger which he said had been going for about eight years and was paid for by Mildenhall Town Council. In his editor’s message in the first edition, Cllr Sadler said: “In the past the council, in addition to the cost of delivery, has had to pay for the printing and production of the newsletters. By combining with the new Newmarket Messenger, which includes council news, the council is saving money and informing readers of activities in other sections of the community. That is why members of the council agreed to become part of the Messenger. I can guarantee they would not have done so if it was likely to cost more money.”
But on Monday Cllr Rachel Hood challenged Cllr Sadler that he was making money out of the magazine. “I might make a few pounds out of it,” he told the meeting.
Cllr Hood said: “I think it is wrong that we have been presented with this magazine without any detailed figures as to how much it is costing this council. Nothing has been forthcoming for two years and since then we have had new councillors elected who know nothing about it.”
Cllr Philippa Winter asked for information about distribution costs but did no receive an answer.
Town clerk Isabelle Barrett urged councillors to move the matter into the private part of the meeting because she said there were issues involving ‘data protection’ which she could not talk about in public.