Council chiefs blasted over spin doctors

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COUNCIL chiefs have been blasted for recruiting “spin doctors” at a time of multi-million-pound staff and service cuts.

The authority is currently advertising on its website for a marketing communications officer, marketing officer, two press officers plus a senior internal communications officer following a review with a combined wage bill of £154,000.

The move has provoked a furious response from Wigan’s UKIP Euro MP Paul Nuttall who claims the decision is a “disgrace” when hundreds of other frontline town hall jobs have had to be sacrificed due to the Government’s axing council funding.

But council leader Lord Smith said that the “reality” was that the authority had saved more than £200,000 from the marketing and communications budgets over the past two years.

Wigan had one of the cheapest media and communications operations among similar sized councils in the country.

But as a result of a review of the team structure and “where to focus limited resourses” it was now advertising a small number of new posts and some vacant positions.

Outspoken MEP Mr Nuttall said that the Labour-run council’s decision to advertise for five professionals on “large salaries” of up to £34,000 per annum “to improve its image” would infuriate residents.

He claimed: “In these times of austerity and having made millions of pounds in budget cuts it’s a disgrace that the council is choosing to spend ratepayers’ money in this self-seeking fashion.

“This is putting style over substance and is a kick in the teeth to hardworking frontline council staff who have been made redundant.

“Residents, already annoyed at the service they receive from the council, will be surprised that the Labour-run authority’s priority is ‘spin’ rather than providing a better service.“

But Lord Smith said that as part of the review the staff would be taking on more work, including all communications for Wigan and Leigh Housing.

So the public would get getting “even better value for money” than before.

Lord Smith said: ”We spend less than £2 per year, per resident on communications and marketing and constantly check our spend against other authorities. We actually have one of the lowest spends per resident of any large authority in the country.

“Without having an effective communications team vital work such as our successful drive to find more adoptive parents, increase recycling rates and the internationally-recognized Believe campaign would never have happened.”