Uncertain future for Essex comms team

Essex County Council’s communications team is set to be scaled down as part of authority-wide cutbacks being considered next month.

Cabinet members will discuss a range of options to save money after Essex received the lowest central government grant increase of any county council this financial year.

According to council sources, options being considered for communications include breaking up the 40-strong comms team. This could include moving internal comms into HR, and consultation into another unspecified non- communications department.

It is understood comms staff have already been asked to consider voluntary redundancy or early retirement, ahead of the cabinet meeting on 8 July.

A council spokesman confirmed voluntary redundancies were an option and would not rule out the possibility of compulsory redundancies. ‘At this stage we have no idea what the structure for the department will be,’ he said.

Referring to next year’s financial situation, he added: ‘The expectation is that the budget will get worse rather than better.’

The possibility of cut-backs for comms comes weeks after the council conceded that a recruitment process to fill its £61,000 head of comms post had ended in failure.

It is understood the council is planning to resurrect the search, but will change the job title to head of media, indicating that the department will have more of a media relations, rather than communications, focus in the future.

In the interim, the team is being managed on a part-time basis by DTW director Robin Treacher, who reports to deputy CEO Philip McCusker.

These latest developments follow a period of success for the council’s comms team, which included winning the best media relations campaign at last year’s IPR local government group awards (PRWeek, 20 September 2002).

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