Smiles don’t come for free: The council that couldn’t find a happy child

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 18.08.49WITH a beaming smile, the little lad in the yellow sweater looks absolutely delighted to be the poster boy for Camden Council’s play schemes. His grin proved so infectious, in fact, that his face was rushed out by the Town Hall’s @CamdenTalking Twitter feed to help promote its services.

But smiles, it turns out, come at a cost, and the boy in the photograph, for all the council knows, may never have even been to Camden. For the council’s press office admitted last week that it buys in pictures from a global database of stock photography – access to which does not usually come cheap.

So rather than photograph its own services and find smiling children from its own patch for the job, the kid in the yellow jumper, in reality, is more likely to be found enjoying his crayons somewhere on the other side of the world this week. His image after all has, for those willing to pay, been used to promote children’s services in Spain, Brazil and the United States… and now, of course, Camden too. It’s one example of many uses of the council’s stock buys. Asked why the council paid out public dosh to introduce this apparent spot of fakery in its promotional material, Camden said last week that “we do have access to an image library which is occasionally used if a photo isn’t available”.

So in this example, as strange as it may seem, there wasn’t a photo available of a child looking happy at a Camden play scheme anywhere. Sad times, huh? “In the majority of cases we use our own pictures,” the press office added. But who is in charge of the editorial output of Camden Council’s Twitter mill; who decides what gets tweeted and what doesn’t? Sadly, the comms department seemed reluctant to say, referring only to “officers operating the account” following guidelines.

As such I cannot tell you which publicly-paid, dutiful official decided that only a picture of Labour council leader Sarah Hayward would be tweeted out from the Citizens UK event held at the Town Hall last Monday evening. Another local resident, Natalie Bennett, the Green Party leader, and Lib Dem leader Tim Farron were there, but, despite their fame, didn’t make the cut. Same too for Labour councillor (and future council leadership candidate) Sally Gimson as it goes, who did not make the council’s Twitter edit.

Camden’s press team said this was because it was Cllr Hayward who was making the pledge on how many Syrian refugees the council would like to take, but oddly enough the tweet makes no mention of this at all. It’s more or less just a picture of Cllr Hayward, explained only as her making “opening remarks”. Why is all this of interest? Readers will know there is a long-running frustration among opposition councillors about the number of times Labour councillors pop up in the Camden Council magazine, to the extent it is often likened to “propaganda”. The question next is whether this battleground will soon expand to Camden’s selective Twitter feed?

2 Comments on Smiles don’t come for free: The council that couldn’t find a happy child

  1. Sarah always looks happy and only costs about £54k. Can’t we have more pictures of things we have already paid for?

  2. Oh dear yet more Labour led Camden waste. They blame the government for cuts yet they carry on like this. Oh and don’t forget those very expensive pictures they bought to hang in the executives offices. Whistle blowers are afraid to expose the real waste for fear of being fired like Patrica Clarke over £6 million waste in housing!!

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