Council rubber-stamps £148,000 ‘spin doctor’ role to oversee future of borough

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

A council’s decision to create a £148,000 per year communications post has been branded ‘politically-driven’ and ‘fiscally irresponsible’ by the Liberal Democrats. 

Southwark council’s new director of communications, engagement and change will be responsible for helping the council deliver its Southwark 2030 plan. 

Southwark 2030 was launched by the Labour-led council last year and aims to set out how the council will improve the borough, informed by residents’ feedback, over the next seven years.

Victor Chamberlain, leader of Southwark’s Liberal Democrat opposition, said it was ‘insulting’ that the Labour authority intended to spend a six-figure sum on the new senior management role while it was slashing other services.

He said: “This is a politically-driven and fiscally irresponsible decision from Labour. At the same time as approving millions of pounds in cuts to vital services, they have somehow found £148,000 for a spin doctor to peddle Labour lines. It is an insult to the communities who have been ignored by their council for years.

“If Labour insist on proceeding with this unnecessary role, they must offset the cost by cutting their bloated cabinet, showing that they value local communities over their own remuneration.”

The creation of the new post was rubber-stamped at a Southwark council cabinet meeting yesterday.  According to a council report, the post will be ‘funded from both existing departmental staffing budgets and the corporate capacity building reserve.”

Stephen Gaskell, Southwark’s assistant chief executive for strategy and communities, said the new role would help the council work with residents on its plans. 

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, he said: “It will take a leadership role in relation to community engagement, working with partners in the voluntary sector in terms of our approach to future service design and delivery.

“But also it’s about taking forward those key transformations around people powered and how we work with communities to deliver change, how we work within our neighbourhood to engender the changes we are setting out through the council plan, how we also address closing the gap as our third transforming priority.”

Pictured top: Southwark council’s headquarters in Tooley Street (Picture: Google Street View)

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