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A Guide to County News

Overview

County News is Lincolnshire County Council’s magazine for residents and businesses, printed and distributed to about 345,000 addresses.

The Winter 2017 edition will cover January, February and March. Because of the difficult financial times and the need to make savings, we are then reducing the frequency of the publication from four to three a year.

The subsequent three editions will cover:

  • April-May-June-July 2017
  • August-September-October-November 2017
  • December-January-February-March 2017/18

The general edition, which has 24 pages, is distributed in six of Lincolnshire’s seven district council areas - North and South Kesteven, South Holland, Boston, East Lindsey and City of Lincoln.

There is also a 32-page West Lindsey edition, containing eight extra pages of district council news, distributed in that area.

Contents

County News is produced by the council’s communications team, which plans, researches and writes each edition, as well as arranging photographs.

In choosing stories and features, our main aim is to communicate with residents about council services and how you can access them.

That involves things that affect every one of us in our daily lives - schools, roads, social care and health, economic development, tourism, libraries, heritage sites, the fire service, and much more.

We want to keep you up to date with the full range of services on offer, as well as explaining any changes being made.

Increasingly, the council provides services alongside other organisations, such as district councils, health, the police, and the voluntary or charitable sector, so they may also be covered in County News.

Another popular item is our “Out and About” section, highlighting events happening across Lincolnshire that season.

Besides carrying news and features, we also use County News to:

  • Consult with you about important issues, such as our 2016/17 budget (more than 8,000 responses were received through County News or online) and devolution (over 4,400 replies).
  • Publish important public notices - for example, the allowances councillors get for carrying out different roles on the authority. (Using County News for public notices saves money that would otherwise have to be spent on external advertising.)
  • Make paid-for advertising space available to other public sector organisations, up to a maximum of two pages per edition. Our current rate card, including key dates, is available in the Download section on this page.

As you would expect, some readers say they would welcome more information about their particular Lincolnshire communities.

This is not always possible to achieve in a magazine covering such a large county, which is why we aim for stories and features that will interest residents wherever they live.

However, for non-council grassroots news about your town or village, there is no substitute for local media and websites - which is just as it should be.

Dates

Each edition is planned to make it as topical as possible. For example, items about road gritting are important over the winter, while magazines during the spring and summer will have a tourism / holiday feel. It’s common sense, really - but it does mean we have to plan features a long way in advance.

To submit story suggestions and Out and About entries, or to book public sector advertising, it’s always best to contact us as far in advance as possible. As a rule of thumb, get in touch three or four months ahead.

The January-February-March 2017 edition has already been planned. After that, the suggested dates for our next three editions are as follows:

  • April-May-June-July 2017- contact us by 1 January
  • August-September-October-November 2017- contact us by 1 April
  • December-January-February-March 2017/18- contact us by 1 August

Each edition will be printed in the middle of the month before it becomes current, with distribution at the end of that month. For example, the April-May-June-July 2017 County News will be printed in mid-March and distributed at the end of that month.

For more detailed dates, see our current commercial advertising rate card in the Download section on this page.

Design

Since we moved to a magazine format, we’ve tried to make the design of County News far more attractive, with photographs and other images used more prominently. This has generally proved very popular.

Also, and to reflect people’s increasingly busy lives, we aim to signpost readers to websites and other places where you can find more detailed information.

Printing

The magazine is printed on 80gsm Ultralux Semi Gloss paper from responsible or well-managed sources. Besides sustainability issues, that type of paper provides quality at a very reasonable cost. In fact, it looks so good that readers sometimes wrongly accuse us of wasting money on expensive glossy paper - we don’t and we won’t!

Distribution

County News is currently distributed to all homes and businesses across Lincolnshire - that’s about 345,000 addresses in all - under a contract with the National Leaflet Company (TNLC).

TNLC aims to deliver the general edition of the magazine to six of the seven Lincolnshire district council areas - North and South Kesteven, Boston, South Holland, City of Lincoln and East Lindsey, which together have a circulation of about 301,000 addresses. The West Lindsey edition (see separate section below) is targeted at 44,000 addresses in that area.

A further 2,000 copies of the general edition are sent to various outlets such as libraries and heritage sites, bringing the total distribution up to 347,000.

The primary method of distribution used by TNLC is Royal Mail postmen and women, under an arrangement known as Door to Door. This allows for the delivery of unaddressed mail to all homes and businesses in a postcode sector, and is by far the cheapest option for a circulation of this size.

With Door to Door distribution, it is not possible to specify individual homes or businesses that do not want to receive the magazine. However, if you would rather not get it, you can opt out of County News (and all other unaddressed mail) yourself.

To do this, you should write, giving your name, address and full postcode and asking them to stop delivering unaddressed items, to:

The Door to Door Helpline,
Royal Mail,
Beaumont House,
Sandy Lane West,
Oxford OX4 6ZZ

Royal Mail should confirm receipt of your request within a few days, although it may take several weeks actually to stop deliveries.

Where there are partial postcode sectors straddling the Lincolnshire county boundary, or between West Lindsey and adjoining districts, it is not possible to use the Door to Door approach. In those cases, TNLC employs teams of distributors other than Royal Mail staff and, in a few hundred cases, direct mailing.

Across the county, TNLC aims to achieve an average success (“penetration”) rate of 95% of addresses - very high for such a large rural county. Despite this, there will inevitably be cases where things go wrong, particularly in outlying areas.

If your community is not getting County News, or there is any other kind of distribution problem, please get in touch with us (see “Contact details” below) and we will try to put it right. We will need your full address and postcode and a description of your concern. If you also let us have your phone number or email address, we can keep you informed of progress.

One final point - readers often ask why we do not email copies of County News to all residents who would like to get the magazine in that way, saving on print and distribution costs. The answer is that it would actually be far more expensive to have an “opt-out” arrangement of that kind than it is to deliver to everyone in a complete postcode sector under a Door to Door contract.

In the future, of course, that may change, particularly as more people choose to receive information online or by email. For now, however, we know from research that a significant number of our readers want to carry on getting County News delivered to their doors - particularly older and more vulnerable residents, and those on lower incomes who may not have computers.

As you would expect, we keep our arrangements under constant review, and when better options become available, we will certainly give them real consideration, balancing the need to keep costs down with ensuring that everyone has access to information about our services.

To help us explore the options, we are keen to hear from residents happy to get the magazine by email. You can subscribe at the website at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/countynews. However, please bear in mind that any changes are still some way in the future, and everyone will continue to have a paper copy delivered until then.

West Lindsey version

As mentioned earlier, we produce a special edition of County News for the West Lindsey area, in partnership with the district council. It contains all 24 pages of the general edition, plus an extra eight pages of district news, giving you a two-in-one package of council information, as well as reducing costs.

This edition is very popular with West Lindsey residents, and we are keen to hear from you with your comments and story suggestions. Please get in touch with the district council’s communications team using the contact details below.

The West Lindsey edition provides a workable model of how district editions could operate across Lincolnshire’s other six local areas, and we will continue to have discussions with other councils about whether they want to enter into similar partnership arrangements with us.

Audio version

For readers who have visual impairments, we produce an audio version of County News, with the support of the RNIB. This is distributed in CD format by Listening Lincs to residents around the county. If you would like a copy, please contact them on 01522 782010.

Audio files of all the main features in each edition, as well as back copies, are also available on our website at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/countynews.

County News website

In addition to the paper version of County News, we have an attractive and easy-to-navigate website.

Simply visit www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/countynews and you’ll find all the features from the current edition in one convenient place. We also aim to bring you a growing number of items that we weren’t able to fit in the magazine.

For completeness, there is an archive of previous editions for readers to refer to, while those with visual impairment will find our audio files invaluable.

If you want to browse the home page of the council’s website before reading County News, that couldn’t be easier. Just go to www.lincolnshire.gov.uk and you’ll find the main features from the magazine right there, together with the latest blogs from the council leader on the big issues of the day.

Costs

Last but not least, readers often ask how much it costs to produce and distribute County News, and whether the expense can be justified in difficult economic times.

We are always very mindful of the cost, which is why we initially reduced the number of editions to four a year in line with the Government’s recommendation to councils, and are now cutting it again to three.

In terms of staffing, the articles are entirely written by our in-house communications team alongside their other work keeping you informed through the council’s website, local newspapers, TV and radio, and social media.

To keep other costs down, the design, printing and distribution are outsourced in accordance with strict procurement rules, ensuring the best combination of quality and cost.

Turning to the actual figures, each edition of County News costs the council around £53,000, once an agreed contribution from West Lindsey District Council has been taken into account.

That figure is reduced by any public sector advertising revenue we generate, and bear in mind that County News also saves the council a lot of money on consultation exercises and public notices.

All in all, each copy of County News costs just 15p to produce and deliver to your door. That is less than a quarter of the cost of a first-class stamp (64p), which we regard as real value for money.

Of course, it is what you think that matters, which is why we were encouraged by the results of a recent survey about the magazine.

The survey - published in the Summer 2016 edition and online - attracted more than 800 responses. The key results were:

  • 94% of respondents said they generally read the magazine.
  • 94% found the design attractive.
  • 97% said the articles are easy to understand.
  • 87% felt better informed about Lincolnshire County Council services after reading County News.

Contact us

For any queries about County News, please email countynews@lincolnshire.gov.uk or phone 01522 782060. You can also write to us at County News, Lincolnshire County Council, County Offices, Newland, Lincoln, LN1 1YL.

Queries about the West Lindsey special edition can be emailed to communicationsteam@west-lindsey.gov.uk, or phone 01427 676502.

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Last updated: 20 October 2016

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