Council defends �40k ‘Reputation Manager’ plans

The council has defended plans to create a �40,000-a-year Reputation Manager after they were been branded ‘a waste of taxpayers’ money’ by its own members.

At last week’s cabinet meeting, East Devon District Council (EDDC) agreed to set up a ‘politically balanced’ working group to examine whether the proposed post would be ‘value for money’.

But independent councillor Claire Wright criticised the plans to employ a Communications and Reputation Manager, saying it will have no benefit to taxpayers

She said: “It is incredible that such a post can be justified when there have been redundancies of key posts, and staff are working harder to try and cover vacancies.”

A spokesman for the council said it wants to get better at informing the people of East Devon about complex changes to services, and admitted communication about council projects needs to be improved.

He added: “EDDC’s Cabinet recognises that one communications officer cannot provide the level of service that modern media operations demand, and so proposes to introduce a second individual to drive and deliver a new communications strategy.”

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee had supported the intention, but had asked for a decision to be deferred so a Task and Finish Forum could analyse the plans, which have a budgetary provision of �41,203, which cabinet agreed.

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A Residents’ Survey designed to track the Council’s reputation, at a cost of �6,500, was approved at Tuesday’s meeting, as was a computer profiling tool be help with the council’s communication with residents, costing up to �5,000.

But Councillor Roger Giles questioned why the money for the Reputation Manager had not been discussed before the budget for the 2012/13 financial year had been agreed.

“If there had been, there would have been serious criticism, and very likely rejection, of it,” he said.

“Presumably the Council Leadership thought the prospects of getting approval for enhanced spin doctor services would be better if they waited a little while after the budget was discussed and agreed.”

Cllr Giles said if there was money to be spent by EDDC, the priority should be cuts to services, not communication.

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