Council spin doctor will earn ‘up to �700-a-day’

SUFFOLK councillors have snubbed the coalition Government’s bid to curb local authority salaries and appointed a temporary spin doctor on a pay scale higher than that of the Prime Minister.

The county’s new head of communications, who will start work on June 14, will be on a temporary six-month contract with a salary of between �400 and �700 a day.

With councils facing a massive cut in grant which could lead to services being axed and staff sacked, the Tory-run county says defiantly that the new post will save money for taxpayers, even though the top rate works out at more than David Cameron’s �142,500 salary.

The council’s head of communications left Endeavour House recently by mutual agreement.

After drafting in expert help from Essex County Council to advise Suffolk’s media operations, the authority has appointed an as-yet-unnamed temporary head of communications.

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One of the jobs he or she will be asked to do is to “develop a pro-active approach to communications, particularly in media management, including campaigns, media, public relations, marketing, events, publications, branding and web”.

The �400 to �700 a day pay scale means the post holder will be earning between �2,000 and �3,500 a week – the upper figure dwarfing the Prime Minister’s salary. The decision was greeted with amazement by the Opposition and the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

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Liberal Democrat leader Kathy Pollard called the pay scale “outrageous” and said the county had so far not told her of the appointment.

She said: “What would the public rather have – four new firefighters or one head of communications? We all know what the answer would be.

“The council is supposed to be belt-tightening as it looks to save �153million over the next 10 years. There has been a significant increase in the costs of the communications department in the past 12 months and the council is now having yet another attempt to find a head of communications.”

Taxpayers’ Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliott said: “Spending on public relations and communications at local council level is far too high already – �700 a day for six months will leave Suffolk taxpayers with an astronomical bill, all so that the local authority can tell residents how great they are.

“An age of austerity is coming and the county council should make do with the communications staff they already have. They could easily cut back on the work they do that is targeted at their own residents.

“Most council tax payers would rather have better services than a council publication about better services.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesperson said: “A temporary head of communications will start on June 14 and whose job will be to implement the recommendations of the recent communications and marketing review. The review will deliver significant savings to the county.”

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