Cornwall defends senior comms hire, citing disconnect between people and power

Cornwall Council has defended a controversial decision to recruit a head of comms and engagement, citing the need to bridge a gap in the relationship between the public and the local authority.

Porthcurno, West Cornwall. Cornwall Council has defended its decision to hire a head of comms and engagement (pic credit Adam Gibbard and Visit Cornwall)
Porthcurno, West Cornwall. Cornwall Council has defended its decision to hire a head of comms and engagement (pic credit Adam Gibbard and Visit Cornwall)

This comes after a series of negative media reports when it emerged last month that the council would spend up to £68,684 a year on the salary of the right candidate.

Monday marked the closing date for applications for the role, which was advertised last month, at a time when the council had announced cuts to services along with a rise in council tax.

Steve Double, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, condemned the new job as a "daft decision" and "waste of our money."

But in a statement, the council told PRWeek: "The former Strategy and Communications Service was significantly cut in 2014 as part of the Council restructure, with the loss of two senior management communication posts."

But since then it has become apparent that there is a "communication disconnect between the council and its residents which needed to be addressed, ideally before the 2017/18 budget/council tax is set."

This is so that people "know and understand that the council's money is being spent on improving people's lives."

A survey by the council last year found that just over a third of residents were clear about what the council spends its money on and that just one in seven understood what the council's priorities are.

The spokesperson added: "As a result it was agreed to create a strategic communications leadership role, leading to the current recruitment of the head of communications and engagement."

The negative publicity surrounding the job advertisement exemplifies the need for the role, according to the council.

A spokesperson told PRWeek: "The challenges that are faced by the public sector in Cornwall and indeed across the country, along with the ever-present climate of savings and cuts, means that we always expect and anticipate the need to explain why and how we are prioritising our limited resources and recruitment in certain areas and not others."

Referring to the term 'PR man' used in some of the negative coverage, the spokesperson explained that the purpose of the role had a wider remit than PR and included resident, member and stakeholder comms, as well as engagement activity across the county.

The spokesperson added: "The inaccurate portrayal of Cornwall Council recruiting a ‘PR Man’ is consistent with a generally negative portrayal of Cornwall Council by the local media. Despite this coverage, our members and staff remain passionate and committed to the delivery of the Council strategy and ensuring that Cornwall is prosperous, resilient and resourceful; where communities are strong and where we protect the most vulnerable."


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