£70K Essex Police PR chief anger

PLANS by Essex Police to pay a new head of media and PR up to £70,000 per year have been criticised by those who feel the money would be better spent on frontline officers.

Elliot Furniss

PLANS by Essex Police to pay a new head of media and PR up to £70,000 per year have been criticised by those who feel the money would be better spent on frontline officers.

The force is currently advertising for the position, offering a salary of between £61,206 and £69,252, and has said it is “commensurate” with roles at similar organisations in the area.

But with a pay bracket of between £24,000 and £33,000 for a Pc, the decision to offer more than double that amount for an office based job has come under fire.

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Julie Young, an Essex county councillor for the Wivenhoe St Andrew ward in Colchester, said she thought some frontline officers would find it “difficult to deal with” but felt creating a better image was an important part of community policing.

She said: “My gut feeling is these excessive salaries for PR or media consultants don't strike a happy chord with the public - they'd much rather see it spent on police in our communities.

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“That said, the police haven't always been very good at putting out media statements. There's a lot more they could do to give balance to some stories. Putting out 'good news' stories should be a priority for the police as well.”

Mrs Young praised the success of a recent dispersal order introduced at a trouble spot in her ward but said more could be done to raise the profile of similar schemes.

She added: “The police job is a difficult one. It takes a high level of commitment to take part in policing. Almost £70,000 for an office job would be difficult for some officers to deal with.”

Mark Wallace, campaign director for the Tax Payers' Alliance, which represents the interests of the tax paying public, said it was “crucial” that the police got its priorities right and realised that the best publicity came free with doing a good job and fighting crime.

“The people of Essex pay their taxes for police officers who catch criminals not spin doctors who put out press releases,” he said.

A force spokeswoman defended the move, saying media and marketing was a “key element” of any organisation and the police service was no different.

She said: “The salary offered for the position is commensurate with other public facing organisations in the region.”

She compared the post to the recently advertised vacancy for a head of media and PR at Essex County Council - which offered a salary of more than £100,000.

The equivalent role at Kent Police is the head of corporate communications and the pay scale for that position is from £70,292 to £77,611.

The spokeswoman added: “The head of media and PR is ultimately responsible for the press office and marketing and communications.

“The force's media and PR department has to deal effectively with the 24/7 demands and pressures from an increasing number of media organisations and compared to large commercial organisations the spend on media is low.”

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