Following on from opening a bank and running post offices, Essex County Council has set up Essex Communications to offer PR services.Splendid! So Essex council tax payers, instead of funding ‘schools ‘n ‘ospitals’, are funding the creation of a nice little business in peddling lies to the public.
Eleven staff are being recruited, with job adverts on the council’s website for account managers and account executives up to £42,000 a year.
In a recession. When PR firms are already ten a penny.
Can’t see this going wrong. Can you?
Giles Roca, the authority’s head of communications who is running the agency, said it has already secured its first client in independent think-tank the Local Government Information Unit.You mean, the ‘independent think tank’ set up to ’provide support to councils and champion local democracy’ and which is ‘owned and governed by its members, the majority of who are local authorities’..?
How cozy. Not exactly competing in the cut-throat business jungle, though, is it?
Concerns have been raised at the creation of a business backed with public money.Yes, I’ll just bet they have...
Mr Roca added: “No business can go from zero to turning a profit straight away, and we see the county council’s funding as like an overdraft, which we hope to have paid off within three years and then start bringing money in.”Would that be in the same way that Alastair Darling ‘hopes’ to see growth in the UK economy that will bail him out of his ludicrous budget?
Yeah, I think they’ve got about as much chance, frankly...
Tom Smith-Hughes, leader of the authority’s Lib Dem group, said the council needed to become a four-star performing authority before embarking on other ventures.If you were competing in the business market, you’d think so. But if you are just flogging your services to ‘independent think tanks’, and later on, no doubt, other councils, quangos, probably some fakecharities too, you probably don’t have to bother about all...
Mr Smith-Hughes said: “Until they have the maximum four stars and are improving strongly I think they should focus on providing the basic services at a better quality to residents.
“We have had to complain about misleading and innaccurate advertising coming out of County Hall. I think they need to sort out their own PR before looking to do it for others.”
Labour group leader Paul Kirkman said he has asked the council’s lawyers to investigate the legality of the scheme.And if they do their PR as well as they do those two things, I think we can forget them paying back the ‘loan’.
He said: “I’ve got no idea what could be next – perhaps a rocket ship to the moon.
“We’re losing the focus on core services like potholes and looking after vulnerable children.”