Wigan Council suspends head of PR following embarrassing ITV documentary

The head of PR at Wigan Council has been temporarily suspended from his duties pending a council investigation into its participation in an ITV documentary.

Wigan Town Hall: the council is carrying out an investigation following an ITV documentary
Wigan Town Hall: the council is carrying out an investigation following an ITV documentary

Don’t Blame the Council, shown on ITV on 23 June, was described by ITV as "a revealing inside view of how Wigan Council is responding to huge cuts in central government funding by reinventing itself as a profit-making enterprise".

Its depiction of council workers as lazy and the council itself as ineffective garnered mixed reactions - some viewers felt it was a deliberately negative portrayal, while others were critical of the council and questioned its decision to allow the documentary to go ahead.

Local news outlets have reported that the fallout from the programme was not discussed at last week’s council meeting, the first since the documentary aired, so as not to prejudice an ongoing internal investigation.

That investigation, which is being led by the council’s head of HR and head of legal, has now resulted in Chris Dunbar, head of public relations at the council, being suspended from his duties. It is also understood that Terry Dunn, head of environmental services at the council, has also been suspended.

However, a spokeswoman for the council said she could not make any comment other than providing a statement from Donna Hall, chief executive of the council.

Hall said: "An independent investigation into Don’t Blame the Council is under way. I am temporarily responsible for the public relations team and deputy chief executive Paul McKevitt is temporarily responsible for environment.

"Wigan Council has a dedicated workforce, which has been highlighted through the BBC series Call The Council which has been seen by 15 million people during its three-week, 15-episode run, which reached daily viewing figures of more than one million. Call The Council also received wide praise from viewers for the hard work of council staff."

The second series of Call The Council, which focused on Wigan among other councils, ended earlier this month.

Hall also said: "The support of our staff is evident with 4,500 of our staff voting us the best big council to work for in the Best Companies survey. It is unfortunate though that attention has been focused on a one-off comic strip mockumentary programme."

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