Essex County Council has appointed former Wembley National Stadium communications director Chris Palmer as its top PRO as it steps up lobbying against a proposed second runway at Stansted Airport.
Palmer has joined the Conservative-run council as head of media, in charge of a 20-strong team, and reports to CEO Stewart Ashurst. He replaces Georgina Stanton, who quit to join East Hertfordshire District Council as assistant director of comms (PRWeek, 21 February).
Palmer was made redundant from Wembley at the end of last year, when it pooled its marketing and comms functions.
He joins as Essex prepares to sharpen its lobbying function. It has drafted in public affairs consultancy Luther Pendragon to advise it on a number of pressing issues.
As well as campaigning against a second runway at Stansted, the council is keen to pressurise the Government to put more investment behind jobs and infrastructure to keep pace with its housing expansion programme.
The Government has proposed building an extra 100,000 homes in the county by 2020 as part of its ‘Thames Gateway’ regeneration programme to create affordable housing and jobs in the South East outside London.
‘There needs to be a much more holistic approach to bring about regeneration that is sustainable,’ said Stephen Castle, council cabinet member with responsibility for communications. ‘We are a Conservative-run authority with close links to the Tories. Luther Pendragon will bring us background expertise on the workings of this Government, which seems to have put its need for affordable housing above all else.’ Essex switched from no overall control to being Tory-run at the 2001 local elections.
Currently 1.3m people live within the council’s parameters. It has coined the campaigning slogan ‘Essex under attack’ to express fears that an influx in housing is not being matched by investment in jobs.