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County council still set on spin doctor

PUBLISHED: 10:21 20 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:05 05 July 2010

SUFFOLK county council is pressing ahead with the appointment of a £62,000 spin doctor, even though the job may cease to exist in 20 months' time because of unitary reorganisation.

SUFFOLK county council is pressing ahead with the appointment of a £62,000 spin doctor, even though the job may cease to exist in 20 months' time because of unitary reorganisation.

Rather than use the shock departure of the previous communications officer Francis Thomas - shortly after the arrival of new chief executive Andrea Hill - as an opportunity to save money, the Tory group on the authority insists the most must be filled.

The county council's future has been clouded in doubt since the end of last year, when the Government asked the Boundary Committee for England to look at the structure of local government in Suffolk and Norfolk, with the aim of replacing the two counties and 15 districts with unitary authorities.

The BCE reported last month on its initial recommendations - Norfolk plus Lowestoft, Ipswich-Lowestoft, and Suffolk rural. It is also consulting on a Suffolk county unitary.

The appointments panel will comprise of Tory and Labour councillors, but the Liberal Democrats have decided to boycott the process in protest against the continuing Suffolk policy of recruiting senior officers when the authority has a limited lifespan.

Lib Dem leader Kathy Pollard said: “Suffolk is cutting back of key services for vulnerable people, the communications appointment is yet another example of the escalating number of top salaries.”

However, council leader Jeremy Pembroke takes the view that the county must still function efficiently and effectively in the short-term, even if there are uncertainties of the future of the organisation.

After initial interest in the job by communications experts from all over England, a number of leading contenders for the job have pulled out of the selection process.

Although it is expected an appointment will be made next week, it could be that the individual given the job may not be able to take up the post until near Christmas, especially if the recruitment is made from another local authority. Most middle managers in councils have to service three months' notice.

Suffolk's future will become clearer at the end of the year, when the Electoral Commission publishes the Boundary Committee's final recommendations to the Secretary of State.

A Government decision is expected by March and any new unitary authorities will come into being on April 1, 2010.


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