Oxfordshire County Council spends thousands on Facebook ads...more than most other authorities, investigation reveals

Oxfordshire County Council
Oxfordshire County Council

Oxfordshire County Council spent the second highest amount by any local authority in the country on Facebook ads, according to research.

Figures obtained by the investigation team at JPIMedia, owners of the Banbury Guardian, show that across the country Facebook users are being targeted with thousands of adverts from politicians and local authorities.

The figures date from October 2018 to September 7, 2019 and show the amount spent on either Facebook or Instagram.

Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) spent £3,370 on 42 Facebook ads during this period, the second-highest amount of all local authorities.

OCC said in a statement: “Oxfordshire County Council use Facebook to communicate issues of importance to residents including community safety, school applications and improvements to highways that require road closures.

“We have successfully used paid Facebook advertising to recruit volunteers for libraries and home care workers, as well as finding potential foster families for children.

“Facebook refers to paid posts by councils as ‘political advertising.’

“To be clear, we don’t do political advertising, we only communicate about the council’s services and policies.”

Across the country, hundreds of individual MPs, elected officials and local authorities have placed nearly half a million pounds’ worth of promotions on the site in less than a year, we can reveal.

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social media giant last year began publishing details of who places - and pays for - adverts promoting political or social issues.

Spending on these ads, often targeted to specific groups, has totalled more than £6.4m nationwide since last October.

And while much of the attention has focused on the big parties and pressure groups on either side of the Brexit divide, the data also reveals the thousands of adverts placed at a local level, often seeking to influence constituents on what can appear to be seemingly mundane neighbourhood issues.

Under new rules Facebook introduced in October 2018, anyone placing a political advert must declare who paid for it.