The Greens are inviting criticism with the recruitment of a head of media relations

The Green-controlled Brighton and Hove City Council is seeking to recruit a new head of media relations on the salary of £43,000 per annum, which the Council says is “essential” for dealing with the 24-hour media environment.

Opposition councillors have been quick to react. Opposition leader, Conservative Councillor Geoffrey Theobald said: “The Greens spend a lot of their time lecturing us about the so-called detrimental impact of Government cuts to frontline
services, so it is frankly pretty outrageous, not to say hypocritical, for them to be recruiting to a highly paid non-frontline media job at this time. This looks even worse when you consider that the whole communications department is expected to be over budget by anything up to a third of a million pounds this year. If they were in the private sector
they would have gone bust long ago!”

I am not opposed to employing those with expertise to do specific pieces of work, but this recruitment is inviting a backlash against the Green administration, particularly at this time. One can already begin to hear the refrain of opposition councillors when any cut is proposed as part of next year’s budget: “is media lations more important than a social worker / school teacher / gardener / grant to a community group / etc.”

Now such comparisons aren’t quite fair. A large complex organisation such as a local authority, and particularly one with a profile such as that in Brighton and Hove, does need to communicate with its citizens as well as respond to ever-increasing demands from the traditional media.

Is £43,000 the right salary? Not being an expert in these matters, I imagine it is probably in the right region for the market. What is the right salary? What is more important, a Council’s media reputation or safeguarding of children? I doubt many social workers are paid £43,000!

(What is the appropriate remuneration for your humble Blogger? If each of my readers (Warren, Chris, Grizzly and Lady Everton) paid £1 per annum I would be ….. Let me work this out ….. £3 better off – Grizzly wouldn’t pay: spends all her hard-earned cash on Megadeath and Slayer).

I don’t criticise the Council for recruiting to this post. I would, however, urge caution. Let the new head of media relations concentrate wholly on delivery, and avoid politics and strategy. If bins aren’t empties, explain why. If a decision is made to introduce fortnightly collections (it is not being proposed), leave it to the politicians to explain.

For their part, councillors should become far more hands off. Set direction, policy, etc., but avoid anything to do with delivery. And if things aren’t right with delivery, let the head of department, one of the four super directors, even the Chief Executive, explain why. After all, many of them are paid well in excess of the £43,000 proposed for this new post, and well in excess of the very modest payments made to councillors.

19 Responses

  1. £43,000 sounds pretty much par for the course. I’d guess. Whether it’s an appointment that is good politics, and sends the right signal is another matter.

    But Geoffrey Theobald is possibly being disingenous here. Unless this is a commitment of new money to the post, it’s not taking resources away from social care or schools or any other council services – it’s redistributing resources within the communications budget.

  2. The Greens need a professional to explain their polices, because they can’t do so themselves – because their polices are irrational and make no sense even they can’t explain them…

    Selling off leases on 499 council houses because 500 or more would trigger a ballot meanwhile claiming to support people making their own choices.

    Complaining about tax avoidance but selling off 499 council houses on a prospectus that relies on avoidance of VAT and other duties.

    Claiming to support transparency but transferring 499 council properties to an unaccountable private company.

    Talking about value for money but accepting £15million less than the expected £45million for the 499 council properties they are privatising…

    I’ll stop now cos I think you get the idea… For the greens, spending £40,000 to spin a rational for this is a bargain (but not for taxpayers)…

  3. The Greens can probably stand up for themselves but if this is what Paul’s referring to (see item 210:4):

    then it would seem this was under way in April, before they came into power.

    As to the council’s comms department, as Geoffrey T hints, it would appear to be a bit of a basket case. Recruiting someone to sort it out doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, on the face of it.

  4. I find it hard to believe that a Council the size of B+H wouldn’t have a head of media relations. Is this a new post, and is it distinct from whoever runs the press office?

  5. As far as I am aware, the council has won several awards for its communications, and does have a Head of Communications as well as a sizeable communcications team built up over the past three or four years. So it does beg the question exactly what value this post will add, particularly at a time of what Geoffrey Theobald refers to as “so called” cuts. £84m over three years.

    At the very least it is right to question the judgement of the Greens who were very critical of the appointment of four strategic directors on remuneration packages significantly higher than this post.

    • At last we can hold the Greens to account for their actions.

      Going a third of a £million over budget in the comms dept smacks of poor management, we can’t afford to overspend and risk more job cuts. Our chief exec should be sorting this out and I don’t mean Caroline Lucas !

      • But when did this overspend occur? Presumably in the last financial year, in which case you’re pointing the finger in the wrong direction.
        Correct me if I’m wrong …

      • OK, scrub that, it is a projected overspend for this year. Doesn’t mean it’s necessarily all the Green’s fault, given the way budgets are worked out in advance, but it is their job to sort it out.

      • Clive the Green crusader.
        Give it a rest

  6. Labour could do with some commuciations guidance after Mo Marsh’s disastrous letter, online this evening, about the Connaught School.

  7. Surely this is Mike Taggart’s old job being filled rather than a new post?

    As a general point, it probably makes more sense to recruit a permanent post holder than rely on expensive agency staff to cover vacancies as seemed to happen frequently under the last administration.

  8. I showed this to several Lib Dems in Birmingham tonight (for some third party – or should that be non Party back in B and H?) perspective who didn’t bat a bearded sandal at the salary. Comms is the easy target for politicians of every Party. Always was since early 90s and always will be. If you fail to communicate then you are “secretive” and if you do then you’re “spinning”. Geoff T of Patcham may wish to reflect on the increase which his Tory administration spent which was way above Labour’s budget (eg; personal vanity bloggers)before casting the first stone (this of course presumes he is aware of the internet at all – is Patcham cabled? Who knows). Frankly, BPB this is a lazy posting not worthy of your usual insight. One could ask with similar outrage about the salaries of CEOs of housing charities, for example 🙂

    • Yes, Patcham is cabled. We’re getting muesli at the Co-Op soon …

      But yes, this is a storm in a teacup. The Green group should take notice, though – both nationally and locally the Tories are playing the easy populism card and we’re going to hear a lot more of this sort of sniping.

      • If its ‘populism’ to resent money being forcibly extracted and thrown away then bring it on.

        Was it £70,000 just to bring downland management ‘in house’ (against the objections of 100% of tenants) – for what?

        Hundreds of people have been quite content to live on Dale Farm – they chose to live there – what does one of their abodes cost compared to what the Greens are planning to throw our money away on? Homeless people want shelter – not to be part of a huge, expensive, Green enviro experiment. Including some standards dreamt up by the least talented person to ever hold high office – John Prescott (today I hear of another £500million of taxpayers money he flushed down the toilet).

    • “One could ask with similar outrage about the salaries of CEOs of housing charities, for example ”

      Yes and one should – without hesitation.

  9. […] my recent post on the proposed media relations post was criticised by Labour councillor Craig Turton who was quite […]

  10. Sorry, I am late to this and as the first and most recent holder of the post, perhaps you’ll indulge me? My brother (former news editor of The Argus Frankie Taggart) commented below Geoffrey Theobald’s online press release but Mr Theobald’s spin doctors refused to publish the comment.

    I agree with everything Frankie said and, as he’s far more eloquent than I am, I’ll just tell you what he said:

    “This is quite possibly the most pathetic, trite piece of political point-scoring I’ve ever read. Theobald, clearly not self-aware enough to see how this will come across, is the one that needs some advice on media relations. I’m no cheerleader for the Greens but this press release sums up why most people think the old guard are at best irrelevant and at worst venal and self-serving. Give us some solutions, Mr Theobald. Give us some vision, a bigger picture. Don’t waste our time carping about a job that your administration created in the first place.”

    Frankie is absolutely right that, when Mr Theobald’s colleagues created this role, they defended it like their lives depended on it. His press release smacks of rank hypocrisy. I would like to know what he thinks about transport, schools and crime and await an interesting pronouncement on one or all of those important issues. By the way, the post holder will be paid £38k – it’s council policy to pay the lowest salary in the pay bracket in the absence of exceptional circumstances.

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