Devon turns to WS in power wrangle

Weber Shandwick has taken on a brief to spoil a local ­authority's bid for unitary status.

The agency has been appoin­ted by Devon County Council, which is determined to stop Exeter City Council gaining the extra powers.

The news comes a week after PRWeek revealed that Weber Shandwick is lobbying for the bid by Shropshire Council. It means that the agency's PA division, headed by Jon McLeod, will have to get ­behind one bid for unitary status at the same time as criticising another.

Exeter City Council sits within Devon County Coun­cil. Exeter claims that unitary status will ensure that money is spent more efficiently.

But Devon argues that such a move will be hugely expensive and will leave less money for people living outside of the city.

Devon's head of comms Peter Doyle confirmed the hire of Weber Shandwick, saying: ‘The brief is to act as professional advocates for Devon County Council in Whitehall and Westminster.'

He added: ‘There are seri­ous flaws in the business case for a unitary authority in Exe­ter. It is badly thought out and will have dire consequences for the city and the county.'

As revealed last week, Exe­ter is using Connect Public Affairs to lobby on its behalf. It is one of six councils shortlisted for unitary status to hire a PA agency.

Devon is not the only ­local authority opposing a bid. Suffolk County Council is critical of Ipswich Borough Coun­cil's bid and Norfolk County Council is against the bid by Norwich City Council.

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