Tower Hamlets raids Haringey to fill top job

Former Whitehall PRO Charles Skinner has become Tower Hamlets Council's first permanent comms chief since 2003.

Skinner: aims to bring consistency to Tower Hamlets
Skinner: aims to bring consistency to Tower Hamlets

Skinner took up the head of comms role at the East London authority this week. He joined from Haringey Council where he was head of comms and consultation.

‘Going from central to local government has proved to be a good move,’ he said. ‘What appeals to me about local authorities is we are so much more at the sharp end of service delivery.’

Skinner has experience of working with the Home Office, Central Office of Information, Cabinet Office and the defunct Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.

He replaced Martin Sixsmith at the Department for Transport (PRWeek, 10 May 2002). Sixsmith was ousted after the Jo Moore fiasco, when the then transport minister Stephen Byers was advised that the 9/11 terrorist attacks offered a good opportunity to bury bad news. Skinner then joined Haringey at the end of 2004 as head of comms and consultation.

Skinner will now seek to stem negative coverage of Tower Hamlets’ spend on consultancies and bring consistency to council communications. The authority has employed over five interim head of comms since 2003, it is understood.

Tower Hamlet’s communications team has been the subject of controversy in recent years. In 2005, consultancy Verve Communications laid out plans to restructure, prompting a ballot for strike action. The authority was then accused of victimization following the redeployment of PRO Eileen Short. This year, the council ruled it should monitor the contracts of external PR consultants more closely (PRWeek, 20 April).

In a written statement, the council said: ‘A review of all our communications work meant it was best not to search for a permanent head until it was complete. We first went to the market last summer to try to do that but were unable to find a suitable candidate. As is normal practice when recruiting from a specialist pool for jobs like this, we waited until this year to be sure of finding a new pool. There was then a long notice period before Charles Skinner could arrive.’

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