Essex and Westminster Councils raise cash by selling comms expertise

Nineteen public bodies have bought comms services from two councils in the past year, according to records obtained by PRWeek.

Selling comms services: Essex Council
Selling comms services: Essex Council

Essex County Council made more than £50,000 from selling comms services in the past 12 months. Westminster is believed to have made significantly more but the council failed to provide a figure when approached by PRWeek.

The trend is expected to grow as Northamptonshire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council finalise plans to sell comms services to other public bodies such as other councils, primary care trusts and police forces.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that Essex Communications, the consultancy formed by Essex County Council, made £51,131.50 in fees in the 2009/10 financial year.

Essex's work included public affairs support to Wandsworth Council and Thames Gateway South Essex.

The council also provided a 'comprehensive review of the comms structure and recommendations on future comms work' to Suffolk County Council.

Meanwhile, Westminster City Council's company, Westco, is revealed to have worked for 15 clients in 2009/10, including the Metropolitan Police Authority, ten councils and Capita Business Services.

Westminster did not disclose how much money it made from the clients, claiming it would be a 'prejudice to commercial interest'.

Band & Brown Communications head of public sector Simon Francis said: 'It's about sharing best practice in the public sector, and that should be encouraged. It's difficult for a national agency to go in and understand all those local issues as a council would.'

Grayling divisional director Justin McKeown added: 'The need for communications does not go away in a recession. Sometimes that will be by using in-house staff, or sometimes it will be outsourced.'

SELECTED CLIENTS

Essex
Wandsworth Council
Thames Gateway South Essex
Suffolk County Council
Brentwood Borough Council
Rural Community Council Essex

Westminster
Cannock Chase District Council
Eastleigh Borough Council
Metropolitan Police Authority
NHS Harrow

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