Cash-strapped Derbyshire County Council under fire over £67k ‘spin doctors’

Furious campaigners have blasted a council’s decision to hire “spin doctors” at a time of huge budget cuts.

By Michael Broomhead
Wednesday, 5th November 2014, 8:33 am
County Hall, Matlock.
County Hall, Matlock.

Derbyshire County Council is currently looking to employ three communications officers each earning up to £22,500 per year.

The authority insists the roles are justified.

A number of vital services across Derbyshire are being drastically changed or lost as the council battles to save £157million by 2018 – the toughest cuts in its history.

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Gary Matthews, Derbyshire representative of the Disabled People Against Cuts campaign group, said: “This is further wasteful and extravagant expenditure while the council is slashing frontline services in adult care and making vicious and nasty savings to disabled children’s services – it puts these £67,000 new salaries into stark context.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they need further help with their PR, however – their public image is at rock bottom with these cuts and they are doing a rotten job in convincing people.”

Andy Silvester, campaign manager at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, added: “When the council is trying to make savings, taxpayers will be furious that their money is being spent on spin doctors.

“Essential services must be prioritised, so how can the council possibly justify this?

“Council tax is a painful hit on hard-pressed families and it can’t be spent on PR officers.”

A council spokesman said: “It’s vital that we have the resources available to communicate with local people about the services we provide and to seek their opinions. This is even more important during such challenging times when the council is having to make decisions about services due to unprecedented budget cuts.

“Whether it’s finding foster carers to look after Derbyshire’s most vulnerable children or explaining national changes in benefit payments for people with a disability or illness, making sure people have the information they need and can understand is key. This is not ‘spin’.

“The county council is Derbyshire’s biggest employer and has a relatively small communications team considering it is a large, complex organisation with more than 27,000 staff. There are currently eight empty posts within the team and we’re looking to fill just three, saving the council about £185,000.

“We’re committed to being open and honest about what the cuts will mean for local people.

“We’ll be holding lots of public consultations about our proposals over the next few years and it’s important that service users get the facts, know how and when they can have their say and what happens as a result.

“The replacement staff will help the council keep in touch with residents, whether it’s directly, through our website, through the media or on social media.”

The council’s communications team has 13 full-time workers and a budget of £968,000, including staffing costs.