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Questions raised over council's communications team

PUBLISHED: 11:21 27 September 2010 | UPDATED: 11:22 27 September 2010

SUFFOLK'S new county council communications department will have wage costs of about £700,000 a year, it has emerged.

That has prompted the leader of one political group at Endeavour House to suggest the spin doctors at the county should be the first to be “divested” as part of the council’s New Strategic Direction.

The county has failed to appoint a new head of strategic communications after deciding that none of the applicants for the job were good enough.

However it is still determined to go ahead with the appointment and is planning to re-advertise the position which has a salary of between £55,000 and £64,000.

Now details of some of the other jobs have emerged. As well as the director of communications, there will also be a chief press officer on a salary of between £44,000 and £49,000.

He or she will be joined by two other senior communications officers on the same salary.

There will be two strategic communications officers on salaries of up to £32,000 a year and 11 staff - eight communications officers, two web officers, and a press officer, earning up to £26,000 a year.

Once NI costs and pension contributions are taken into account the total cost is likely to be more than £700,000.

That is less than the current budget of £838,000 for the communications department at Endeavour House - but still came under fire from the leader of the Green group at the council.

Andrew Stringer said: “That is a huge amount of money, and what good does it actually do the council? If they want to start selling off - or divesting - services then that is one of the first they could start with.

“Look at the other councils in Suffolk. They have one press officer each and perhaps a part-timer giving some assistance - and they do much better than the bloated department we have here.

“Put the service out to contract and we could probably get a much better, and cheaper, service with more money for the things that people really need.”

Council deputy leader Jane Storey confirmed that the search for a communications director had been aborted - but said it would still be necessary to appoint a new director.

“The costs of that department are coming down substantially but there is a need for a professional to head up the department so we are likely to re-advertise,” she said.

Liberal Democrat resources spokesman Andrew Cann was encouraged to hear that the costs of the department had come down.

He said: “It is good that they council will be spending less on this in future. If there has to be a director they should look at promoting someone from within the organisation, who knows the council, rather than always looking for an expensive outside appointment.”

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