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Photos row comes to a (letter) head! Council: get rid of your snaps.

Byline: AMY HUNT

A ROW has blown up over a council's decision to scrap members' photos on letterheads.

Newcastle's deputy leader Coun David Faulkner has ordered councillors to remove their pictures from correspondence, saying it will save the council money.

But other members say the pictures give a human face to local politics at very little cost.

Coun Faulkner says using photos on letterheads is "egotistical" and if residents want to see what their councillors look like then they can check the website.

Opposition leader Nick Forbes says more money could be saved by scaling back on glossy council brochures.

Coun Forbes said he used to print his letters in black and white, including the photo, but is now unable to do so since his printer was replaced with a colour machine.

He said: "Perhaps Coun Faulkner is worried that people receiving our letters might be frightened by our pictures.

"The council produces a number of glossy documents with nice pictures in colour of the executive members, at much greater expense than letterheads for councillors.

"If Coun Faulkner wants to save some money, not producing pointless documents like this would have a much greater impact on the council's budget."

Coun Faulkner said: "I don't think having photos on letterheads makes any difference.

I asked a group of people at a ward committee and there weren't any of them who thought it was that important.

"What's important is whether councillors are accessible to people and respond to their inquiries, not whether they have their photos on their letters.

"I don't feel I need to have my photo on my letterhead, it's unnecessary and I feel it's a tiny bit egotistical.

"I think we should only be producing literature which people really want and we have cut back dramatically on our printing and promotional budget over the last few years.

"There's a distinction between councillors putting their pictures on letterheads and officers thinking they should put executive members' pictures on documents." Independent councillor for Westerhope, Marc Donnelly, said all councillors should have been consulted on possible changes before a decision was made.

He said: "I think removing photographs from letterheads is absolutely ridiculous. I find it difficult to understand how the removal of a picture is going to really make any difference to the budget savings the council is trying to achieve.

"I consider that the benefits of having photographs included on the letterhead are far outweighed by the minimal cost that would be saved removing them.

"It is extremely important that people easily put faces to the names of their councillors as we often deal with elderly and vulnerable people who don't necessarily have easy access to the photographs via the internet or other ways."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 3, 2009
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