Public Sector: Slough chief quits to take Hillingdon post

Hillingdon London Borough Council has poached Slough Council head of corporate comms David Holdstock to be its first PR chief for eight years.

Holdstock takes the helm at the recovering council's comms team two years into a radical improvement programme. The authority - the second biggest in London by area - was dogged by financial problems in the 1990s and has been without a comms chief since Yakoov Wise left in 1997.

'Serious financial problems affected recruitment for senior posts,' admitted Hillingdon PR manager Roy Mills. 'Due to the success of the improvement project the council has been able to fill the (PR chief) post.'

The council severely overspent its social services budget in the 1990s, according to the Local Government Chronicle.

The authority has since centralised its procurement function, which last year saved it £800,000. Hillingdon has also changed the way it recruits staff and supplies services, introducing a customer contact centre, which now handles 12,000 calls per month.

Holdstock - who has been at Slough for five years - will start at the Conservative-led council in August as the authority seeks to improve its Comprehensive Performance Assessment rating (CPA). The council's rating in 2004 was 'weak'.

Westminster City Council comms head Alex Aiken has been drafted in to advise the council on a temporary basis.

Mills has held the most senior communications post at Hillingdon since Wise's departure, reporting to the head of information communication technology.

Holdstock will take charge of internal comms, the press office, publications and marketing. Prior to his time at Slough, he was senior communications adviser to the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for the north London area, which covers 16 London boroughs.

Slough is now on the hunt for his replacement to manage the 20-strong team. Head of press is recently appointed Gemma Shewring, who was previously acting head of news. She will lead the comms team on an interim basis.

Holdstock will report to Hillingdon chief executive Dorian Leatham.

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