PUBLIC SECT0R: Enfield to slash comms as Conservatives take reins

The London Borough of Enfield's newly elected Conservative administration has pledged to sweep aside Government-backed plans to boost the role of its PR unit.

Conservative councillor Michael Rye, the new council leader following this month's local election, says he intends to reduce the role of communications and control his own media relations, effectively bypassing the press office.

He has also rejected help being given to the council through the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions' Connecting With Communities PR improvement scheme, calling it 'a waste of money.'

Angela O'Connor, the council's director of human resources and acting head of communications, was hoping to unveil within weeks a set of proposals, based on DTLR-backed advice, to increase the budget and create a strategy and better structure.

But Rye says an increase in the role of PR is 'out of the question.'

He said: 'PR is not a priority for the Conservatives in Enfield. We think it's better to spend money on actual services, not telling people lies.

'If the streets are dirty there's no point telling people they are clean.

We'd prefer to spend money on making them clean,' he added.

Consultant Carol Grant, appointed through the Connecting with Communities project to assist Enfield, said she intends to meet Rye to discuss its benefits for Enfield.

'Incoming administrations always take a fresh look at comms. If its role is downplayed you often see that in a couple of months there's a rethink and that decision is reversed,' she said.

Enfield, along with five other councils, was selected for special assistance in the Connecting With Communities project, following a troubled two years for its PR function.

In 2000 an Improvement and Development Agency report criticised PR across the board. Last year its head of comms Ashley Gibbins left by mutual agreement following a period of suspension.

Leader, p8.

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