Essex County Council is launching Essex Communications to sell public relations services to both public bodies and private companies.
Eleven new staff are being recruited to get the controversial venture off the ground, in addition to the council’s existing 25-strong comms team.
The move raises the intriguing prospect of Essex Council going head to head with consultancies such as Bell Pottinger and Weber Shandwick to compete for new business.
The council’s head of comms Giles Roca claimed the new outfit would have the edge over some agencies.
He said: ‘We’ve developed inherent expertise that is comparable and, I believe, better than what’s on offer in agencies, especially around public affairs.’
Roca also argued that some agencies ‘struggle to understand and work with’ politicians. He said the Conservative-controlled council would capitalise on its Tory connections as the country prepares for a change of government.
The plans are already causing ructions. One senior agency source said: ‘This is risk-free growth for the public sector.
It might be preserving public sector PR jobs, but it is doing it at the cost of private sector PR jobs, when we are in a recession.’
Roca said Essex has already signed up the Local Government Information Unit think-tank, as well as one London borough, which he would not name.
Essex aims for the new agency to be self-funding within two to three years.
The plans build on Westminster City Council’s existing agency service, which works for other authorities.
The new concept
Essex Communications will be headed by the council’s head of communications Giles Roca
Three account managers and up to eight account executives will be appointed to work for Essex Communications
The new venture will offer profile-raising and campaigning expertise to both the public and private sector