Dozens of PR staff employed by South Yorkshire councils

Sheffield Town Hall viewed from across the Peace Gardens. 14/7/13
Sheffield Town Hall viewed from across the Peace Gardens. 14/7/13
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Councils in Rotherham and Sheffield employ a whopping 70 public relations staff between them, new research has claimed.

Sheffield Council has one of the biggest PR operations in the country, with 43 staff, along with Leeds and Kirklees.

Meanwhile, Rotherham Council, blasted for its handling of the child sexual exploitation scandal, employs 27 communications workers to manage its reputation.

The figure was condemned by Times journalist Andrew Norfolk, who has won numerous awards for his work exposing the Rotherham scandal.

Mr Norfolk said: “That’s a mini PR empire but in my experience they’ve not always been particularly eager to answer questions from the press.

“Every local authority needs to be able to communicate with its residents but Rotherham was a place where reputation management became more important than speaking the truth, where the image mattered more than the reality.”

He highlighted a part of Louise Casey’s February report on the Rotherham scandal, which said that the council had a “culture of suppressing bad news and ignoring difficult issues”.

She also warned “both today and in the past, Rotherham has at times taken more care of its reputation than it has of its most needy.”

A Rotherham Council spokeswoman said it was ‘misleading’ to suggest the council had 27 PRs as staff some worked in marketing roles. Sheffield Council said the figures were ‘misleading and inaccurate’ and it employed 17.5 full time communications officers.