Over £26k spent on Christmas letters distributed by Barking and Dagenham Council

Joe Lynch, deputy chairman of Rainham and Dagenham Conservatives

Joe Lynch, deputy chairman of Rainham and Dagenham Conservatives, submitted a Freedom of Information request after receiving the letter last December - Credit: Joe Lynch

Barking and Dagenham Council spent more than £26,000 distributing leaflets at Christmas, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed.  

In a version of the borough-wide letter sent to residents in the Eastbrook ward in December, topics such as Covid vaccinations, improvements to the area and the local push for a green agenda were among those covered.

A spokesperson for Barking and Dagenham Council said the letter was one way in which the council had tried to keep residents engaged.  

“We took the opportunity to use that December letter to also tell residents about some of the changes happening in their local neighbourhood and borough-wide, for example the film studios, because we want to make sure our residents benefit from the new jobs and skills opportunities the studios will bring," they said.

The Eastbrook version of the borough's letter seen by this newspaper was signed by local Labour councillors Princess Bright, Mick McCarthy and Tony Ramsay, each of whom had their headshots and email addresses included in the header. 

With the high rates of Covid and rising number of deaths at the time, they said its communications had an emphasis on getting tested and vaccinated, something pushed for by central government. 

The letter sent to the Eastbrook Ward from Barking and Dagenham Council

The letter sent to the Eastbrook Ward from Barking and Dagenham Council - Credit: Franki Berry

However Joe Lynch, deputy chairman of the Dagenham and Rainham Conservatives and a local resident, said he thought it was “suspicious timing” with the May elections coming up. 

“This is the first thing we have had like this since 2018,” he claimed.

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He also questioned why, if it was a message directly from the council, were the local councillors included in its header. 

Deciding to put in the FOI request querying the cost of distributing the letters across the borough, Joe said he was “shocked” to learn the leaflets cost the taxpayer £26,508. 

With issues such as potholes on his road in Gorse Way and ongoing concerns regarding streetlights, Joe accused the council of using public money for “electioneering”. 

However, Barking and Dagenham Council noted its inability to engage with residents in-person at the time meant other platforms were necessary to get messages out.

“While the majority of our communication is now online, we appreciate that this misses some residents, so there is still a need for printed communication at times.” 

  • This story has been amended to make clear the letter was not only sent to Eastbrook ward, but the whole borough.