Gloucestershire calls in Cheltenham’s Neill

Gloucestershire County Council has hired Cheltenham Borough Council communications manager Melissa Neill as its comms chief following the departure of Hilary Alison five months ago.

Neill takes up the post in November, overseeing a team of 30 people. Reporting to head of service policy and review Jane Burns, the job is currently occupied on an interim basis by LG Communications general secretary Kevin Wilson.

Neill will arrive at the council as it prepares to review its secondary and sixth-form education system in the city of Gloucester. The review will involve a public consultation campaign to gauge opinion about the future of the area’s school system.

Wilson said: ‘It is a massive comms exercise and based on the fact that pupil numbers are predicted to fall, so it is a challenge for the council to know how to respond to that.’

The council is expected to explore what the public think about merging schools in the district, which could lead to some school closures.

According to Wilson, Neill will also spearhead an initiative to improve access to services, called ‘Call Council Direct’, which is being piloted with Gloucester City Council.

The scheme is designed to identify the questions frequently asked by service users and to make their queries widely available to public sector staff to improve response time. The pilot has been running for three months.

Neill will also oversee the council’s publications, intranet and internal communications initiatives.

She has been at Cheltenham Council as comms manager since March 2003, prior to which she was marketing manager at Bristol City Council.

Cheltenham has yet to secure a replacement for Neill. The postholder will report to policy and public relations assistant director Jane Grunert on operational issues and directly to the board on media relations matters and comms strategy.

Wilson has been seconded to Gloucestershire Fire Service where he will develop internal communications around the Audit Commission’s ratings system, the Comprehensive Performance Assessment.

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