Herts corporate chief Odling-Smee resigns

Hertfordshire County Council is reviewing its top comms post following James Odling-Smee’s decision to leave the authority.

Odling-Smee has quit to go freelance after five years as head of corporate comms. He is known for steering the council (and emergency services) through the media frenzy after the Potters Bar rail crash in May 2002.

Seven people were killed and 76 injured in the crash when a train heading to Norfolk derailed.

He also handled the launch of Hertfordshire's integrated children's services department – the first in the UK,  according to Odling-Smee. It was created before the Children's Act became law in 2001.

The 'excellent' rated council boasts a central comms team of 14 and a further ten comms staff across different departments.

'I had come to the end of my five-year contract and decided to go freelance because there is currently a good market for independent consultants,' he said.

Before his time at Hertfordshire, Odling-Smee was head of comms at the Local Government Information Unit for three years. He previously worked for Hackney Council where he was deputy head of comms.

He follows in the footsteps of his former managers at Hackney, Marina Pirotta and Lorraine Langham.

The former set up Marina Pirotta Communications, while Langham is currently managing director of Verve Communications.

Odling-Smee started his career as a journalist working for International Arts Publishing, and in the early 1990s helped launch charity trade title Third Sector – now owned by PRWeek publisher Haymarket Publishing.

Hertfordshire director of people and property Alan Warner said a decision on whether to broaden the responsibilities of the top comms post would be made in the following week.

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