City council's newsletter has 'alarming' errors

9:50am Tuesday 13th November 2012

By Pete Hughes

MORE than 60,000 copies of the front cover of Oxford City Council’s newsletter are to be reprinted after “alarming” inaccuracies about changes to the benefit system.

Delivery of Your Oxford has been halted after the mistakes in council leader Bob Price’s column were discovered.

More than 27,000 people had already received the winter edition of the newsletter by the time the errors were discovered on Friday afternoon.

Last night the city council said it was printing a corrected version of the newsletter’s cover sheet – which includes pages one, two, 19 and 20 – at a cost of £2,000.

Mr Price wrote that child benefit would be replaced by the Universal Credit system next year.

He also said under the new system, people would no longer be able to apply for Job Seeker’s Allowance online, but both statements are incorrect.

The mistakes were spotted by Lib Dem councillor Tony Brett, who pointed them out to the council’s chief executive Peter Sloman.

Mr Brett said: “I didn’t want the whole city panicking, and to tell people that they can no longer apply for child benefits separately would upset a lot of people.

“Mr Price really needs to get his facts straight.”

Mr Brett said he had a wider concern that the column as a whole gave a “one-sided and politically biased view”, despite being in a taxpayer-funded newsletter.

Summertown councillor and Lib Dem group leader Jean Fooks said: “What they have produced contains inaccurate and alarming information.”

Your Oxford has a circulation of 62,000 and two editions are printed and distributed each year at a cost of about £10,000 per edition.

Some 27,141 copies of the winter edition were delivered to residents before the error was reported.

The council is now preparing to send replacement cover pages to homes which have received their copy, together with an explanatory letter, later this week.

It will also deliver corrected copies to the 35,000 remaining addresses.

Mr Price said: “Due to a proofing oversight which arose from my need to reduce the length of the text to fit the space available, some inaccuracies inadvertently appeared in my editorial letter in Your Oxford.

“While no-one will lose benefit as a result of making the transition to Universal Credit (this has been guaranteed by the DWP), many people will already have seen a reduction in their benefit before the move to Universal Credit.

“Child benefit is outside Universal Credit, but is due to be withdrawn from higher earners.”

From October 2013, the Universal Credit system will replace six existing benefits: income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credits, working tax credits and housing benefit, but not child benefit.

City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “The pages on the website that relate to Your Oxford have been taken down and will be replaced when we have the new copy of Your Oxford.”

She added: “Advertising covers a large amount of the cost which includes printing, delivery and design.

“The reprint of the four pages will cost approximately £2,000.

“As a result of an arrangement with the distribution company, the delivery cost will be included in the original cost.”

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