Sex and cash and rock (‘n’ roll)

While sucking on my Vote Conservative stick of rock that the party delivered to the newsroom this morning, I was finding out about the latest trick by the NHS to stop children in Leicester having sex.

In the form of a soap opera to be shown on its own website and YouTube, the campaign aims to mimic teen soaps such as Hollyoaks and Skins to deliver the safe-sex message.

It’s clear something has to be done. Leicester has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the land.

As usual it took all day and several phone calls and emails before I eventually managed to find out the campaign is costing more than £80,000.

Since become a journalist it has shocked me how the spending of public money is so secretive. I don’t have too many dealings with NHS Leicester City so I can’t comment on them specifically but I’m staggered that organisations don’t have to publicise how they spend every penny of taxpayers’ money. And I don’t mean at the end of the financial year in a dull document but as soon as the issues are made public.

There was a very real possibility today that the Leicester Mercury was going to have to report on the campaign tomorrow without being able to say how much it was costing.

Having spoken to the NHS official in charge of this sex education campaign before lunch she told me that although the campaign was “cost effective” they couldn’t say how much it cost because the campaign wasn’t over. This was reiterrated by the NHS press officer a couple of hours later.

The press officer then told me they could tell me how much they’d spent on their original YouTube video. An hour or so later I was told that was £15,000.

By 5pm, with the article already designed on tomorrow’s page three, I thought I’d better double-check we were just talking about the one-off video. We were. But actually they can now tell us about the extra £70,000 spent on the rest of the campaign.

As I said, I have no idea about the politics of it all behind the scenes, but should it be so difficult to find out how much of our money is being spent to tell teenagers to practise safe sex?

Nice rock, by the way. In the spirit of balance I look forward to gifts from all major parties before Thursday.

About Ian

A journalist working in Brussels
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