Spotted today, whilst out and about in Nottingham.
This is Nottingham City Council’s poster inviting consultation on proposed changes to their spending.
What struck me about it was firstly how leading the poster is. Not only do we have the comparison between Nottingham and Windsor’s cuts, but also the use of colour to emphasise the word ‘unfair’. Is this a consultation, where the city council wants to hear a representative response to their budget proposals or is it an exercise in gaining ammunition against central government’s allocation of local budgets? If you ask a leading question you will undoubtedly get a particular type of response.
Within this creative we also see a very stereotypical representation of wealthy southerners, all of white ethnic origin and shown as white collar workers, versus the ethnically diverse blue collar ‘down to earth’ Nottingham folk. This is subjective stereotyping and is designed to stimulate feelings of resentment amongst local respondents towards our southern counterparts – who, we are led to believe have more budget per head than us.
So why use such a leading creative for a consultation exercise?
Further research on the Nottingham City website sheds some light on the reasons for such an approach. The consultation page outlines the background to the council budget cuts, citing a range of government changes and the impact on local services. The statement to back up the creative is as follows: Research shows that major Government reductions in council funding are being distributed unevenly across the country, with county shires remaining relatively protected when compared against cities.
They articulate that this is a tough time for local councils, having to make cuts in a range of services to balance their budgets, and raise council taxes to cover a shortfall – and the copy on the webpages supports this, using language such as
…another difficult budget…tough decisions…dealing with… – emphasising that this is a situation imposed on the city council and not of their making.
It is clear that Nottingham City Council are financially under pressure, having to make some difficult decisions to balance the books, and that they find the uneven reductions across the county to be unfair.
The poster creative however detracts from the main purpose of the consultation, to gain opinion and agreement on the proposed budget cuts. It positions the proposals in light of a north-south divide, which will generate anti southern and anti government sentiment rather than stimulate real debate about how to balance the budget in difficult economic conditions.
I am sure that many local residents will be unhappy with the proposed council tax rise and cuts in services, but let’s debate that as adults rather than using a ‘look over there!’ tactic to push the proposals through whilst everyone is distracted, getting het up about how unfair the world is.