PUBLIC SECT0R: Burnley names Crookes as first head of PR

Burnley Borough Council has appointed its first head of comms, following calls to improve PR in the aftermath of race riots in the town.

The role is to be filled by Leeds City Council senior PRO Gerry Crookes.

It was recommended, along with a strengthening of corporate comms, in a review carried out by agency Daniel Harris Associates and the council.

Crookes joins next week and her first task, according to DHA head Daniel Harris, is to create a new comms structure. This could include boosting the numbers in the central corporate PR team, which currently has two PROs.

DHA was called in last year (PRWeek, 29 March) following an independent report, called 'Burnley Speaks, Who Listens?', into the summer 2001 riots.

This found little understanding between Asian and White communities and poor council attempts to tackle allegedly inflammatory media coverage of racial issues.

Councillor Andrew Tatchell, deputy leader of the authority and the member responsible for comms, said: 'We have been criticised in the past for not being as good as we should at getting information out to local people and not devoting resources to doing this properly.'

Work already done to improve comms since the publication of the report, includes creating a comms working group of officers from all departments, which is chaired by CEO Gillian Taylor.

An internal comms publication called Council People has been created, and council officers now meet more formally with local newspaper editors to liaise on possible community and consultation campaigning link ups.

Also the central comms team has been moved out of the single regeneration budget team, which unusually it was funded through, and now sits in the CEO's department.

Crookes was unavailable for comment as PRWeek went to press.

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