The London Borough of Lewisham is attempting to end the recruitment
jinx surrounding its communications department with the creation of 13
new communications posts and a renewed attempt at hiring a head of
corporate communications to lead the new team.
After redefining the top communications job last year, the council has
so far struggled to attract the high-calibre PR professional it seeks to
head up the role, failing first of all to attract suitable applicants
and then, earlier this year blocking the appointment of one prospective
candidate (PR Week, 28 January).
Since the departure of Mark Robinson, the last senior communications
boss at the council who left in December 1998, Paul Richards, a local
government consultant at public affairs agency Chelgate, has been on
secondment as consultant head of communications at the council.
This new recruitment drive is the final part of a restructuring plan
devised by Richards to upgrade the council’s communications. Under the
plans, the council hopes to see a new corporate communications head
oversee a team which will eventually be 17strong, covering press and PR,
marketing, publications and new media.
Communications manager Adrian Wardle,who currently manages a team of
three, will take day-to-day control of a department of 16 broken down
into four teams covering marketing, PR and new media, and publications
with two support roles. Wardle will report to the incoming head of
According to Dave Sullivan, mayor for Lewisham, the appointments are a
clear sign of the growing strategic importance of communications within
’Council communications is now a vital part of local democracy. We are
investing in excellent PR because it helps us deliver the local services
people want. For too long public sector PR has been the poor relation of
private sector PR - not any longer.’
Richards will remain in the post at Lewisham until June at least, by
which time the council hopes to have a new communications head in
The executive’s inability to find a full-time head of corporate
communications typifies the problem faced increasingly not just by
London boroughs, but a wide-ranging recruitment crisis faced by a number
of councils around the UK.