New spin doctor “will save half a million”

SUFFOLK’S new spin doctor is being hired to slash �500,000 from the county’s communications’ budget, it was revealed today.

Chief executive Andrea Hill said she was keen to get the re-organisation of the department under way as soon as possible – and the saving would have to be made by the end of the year.

“I think it is very clear that in the current financial situation that we have to find savings of �500,000 from that department by the end of the year.

“I would take until then to make a full-time appointment and the council cannot wait another six months.”

Jill Rawlins will take over as interim head of communications at the county next Monday at a fee of between �400 and �700 a day. That means she will be paid between �52,000 and �91,000 for her work in Suffolk.

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County council leader Jeremy Pembroke did not accept that Mrs Rawlins appointment – coming on top of Mrs Hill’s �218,000 salary in 2008 – meant Suffolk was getting a reputation as a county that paid over the odds for senior staff.

He said: “We have got a reputation for being one of the most cost efficient counties in England. That is what is happening here.

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“We have spent �600,000 on the new strategic direction – but that has produced savings of �14 million and with this new appointment we are looking to save �500,000 by Christmas.

“It is only a short-term appointment and then the money will be saved.”

Despite Mr Pembroke’s hopes, news of Mrs Rawlins’s appointment travelled rapidly around the country after the EADT broke the story yesterday – with many media organisations reminding viewers, listeners and readers about Mrs Hill’s own salary.

Mrs Rawlins is a former head of communications for supermarket group Somerfield and the government’s Countryside Agency.

The previous head of communications at the council, Caryl Jackson, officially left her post last month after being on special leave since the beginning of the year.

The new appointment comes as services in the county are facing a cutback of up to �11 million.

The county council is still waiting to hear an exact figure of how much government grant it will lose as its share of the government’s �6 billion spending cuts for the current financial year.

In a letter to staff, chief executive Andrea Hill warned that the council could lose between �4 and �11 million in government grant during the current financial year.

Next year the county is expected to face far more serious cuts as the government’s new spending regime hits local authority spending.

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