There has been plenty of discussion about the appointment of a Communications Consultant in recent weeks. Here we tackle a few commonly held misconceptions:

FACT: DERBY CITY COUNCIL HAS APPOINTED A COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT

We have appointed Arch Communications ‘to assist the Council in how it communicates with residents on its financial position, and the decisions to be taken with regard to how our budget is spent over the next three years.’

A competitive tendering process was completed and bids were evaluated against a range of criteria.

The Council has set aside £60,000 to fund the appointment. This is the maximum amount the Council has allocated to this Contract although it is anticipated that the actual amount spent with the appointed consultant will be considerably less.  It is expected that they will work two or three days per week and will support the Council for somewhere between three and six months.

FICTION: DERBY CITY COUNCIL IS APPOINTING A POLITICAL SPIN DOCTOR

The role of the Communications Consultant will be non-political. The consultant is expected to abide by the Council’s Employee Code of Conduct and is therefore required to maintain political neutrality, as are all members of the Communications Team.

Councillors played no role in the appointment or in the on-going work of the Communications Consultant. Arch Communications will report to the Director of Strategic Services and Customer Management, who has overall responsibility for the Communications and Consultation Team.

FACT: DERBY CITY COUNCIL IS INVESTING IN PROMOTING ITS KEY MESSAGES

At a time of austerity, it is more important than ever for the Council to communicate effectively with the general public. We think that it is important that our residents and businesses understand the financial position of the Council and how any cuts to the services we provide may impact on them. We need to be able to signpost residents to important services and ensure the people of Derby get the support they deserve.

FICTION: DERBY CITY COUNCIL SPENDS £300,000 PER YEAR ON PRESS OFFICERS

The Derby Telegraph said the authority has nine press officers who earn £250,000, as well as a Head of Communications who earns between £49,000 and £55,000 per year. This is inaccurate.

In 2011/12 the Council spent £503,335 on its Communications Team.  This has reduced every year since then

Annual Spend on Communications Staff
2011/12 – £503,335
2012/13 – £469,078
2013/14 – £405,491
2014/15 – £383,139
2015/16 – £298,429

For the 2016/17 financial year the forecast budgeted spend is £324,980.

In a benchmarking report published in September 2016 comparing 35 local authorities, the average communications budget in larger authorities (the category in which Derby is listed) was £601,197.

The Council’s Communications and Consultation Team consists of a number of very different roles.  The Council’s Communications Team currently consists of 12.7 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff. The posts are…

  • Project specific posts such as Our City Our River; Fostering & Adoption or Local Sustainable Transport (3 FTE – all temporary project funded posts)
  • Creative Design Officers (1.5 FTE)
  • Departmental Assistant (1 FTE)
  • Internal Communications (1 FTE – temporary funded post)
  • Digital Communication Officers (2 FTE – temporary funded posts)

None of the above posts handle media enquiries.  The Council has not employed dedicated Press Officers since 2011.

There are only 2.2 Communications Officer posts in the Communications Team that handle media enquiries as part of their Job Description (2.2 FTE).  Media enquiries are also handled by the Head of Communications & Consultation (1 FTE) and Senior Communications Officer (1 FTE) by exception, that is, either due to lack of office cover or a specific high profile issue.

The Team also includes a Business Development Officer.  This post is self-funding and is responsible for generating over £200,000 of advertising and sponsorship income for the Council every year.

FACT: THE COMMUNICATIONS TEAM PROVIDES VITAL SUPPORT TO COUNCIL SERVICES

Derby City Council is a large organisation and needs to be clear and consistent in the messages it delivers to both the public and its employees. Like any large business or public body, we have a Communications Team responsible for communicating with residents and businesses in the city as well as with our large group of employees who work all over the city.

The Team performs many functions including responding to enquiries from the media; managing internal communications between our 3,775 directly employed staff;  managing the content of the Council’s website, and the news website, including all our social media channels ; designing publications both on and off line, and helping our many services promote their good work.

FICTION: MONEY FROM FRONTLINE SERVICES IS BEING USED TO PAY FOR A COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT

The post will not be funded by any further cuts to services in Derby. Due to reductions in the grant the Council receives from the Government, we are still required to deliver a further £45 million of savings by 2019/20. The appointment of a Communications Consultant is a short-term post which is likely to last between three and six months.