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Council hires £850 a day PR guru

Published 20/04/2015

The ruling Labour cabinet in Rotherham council resigned en masse after a damning report
The ruling Labour cabinet in Rotherham council resigned en masse after a damning report

Rotherham Council has hired an £850 per day PR specialist to help the crisis-hit authority improve its communications.

Mark Fletcher-Brown, who has worked for more than 70 local authorities, was commissioned to provide "specialist communications support" to the council after the child sexual exploitation (CSE) scandal in the South Yorkshire town.

The council has paid Mr Fletcher-Brown more than £9,500 since he was hired in November last year.

A report by Professor Alexis Jay provoked nationwide shock in August last year when it outlined how at least 1,400 children were raped, trafficked and groomed in Rotherham.

A further review by Louise Casey, published earlier this year, led to the mass resignation of the ruling Labour cabinet and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles orderied Government-appointed commissioners to take over the running of the council.

The Casey Report found that Rotherham Council went to some lengths to cover up information and suppress bad news because of its concern for its reputation.

The review stated that: "Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council has a culture of suppressing bad news and ignoring difficult issues."

It continued: "Inspectors found that the council's concern with its reputation leads it to cover up information which it would prefer not to be in the public domain."

A Rotherham Council spokesman said: " Mark Fletcher-Brown was commissioned by the then interim chief executive in November 2014 to provide additional capacity and specialist communications support in a number of areas, at a time of significant change, challenge and increased workload for the council in dealing with the high profile coverage of failings identified in the Alexis Jay report.

"His work has included the provision of strategic and tactical advice to the interim chief executive and the strategic leadership team; the development of plans to improve communications with staff and public; and working with the in-house team on a review of the communications and marketing services provided by the council."

Mr Fletcher-Brown originally worked one-and-a-half days per week for the council, increasing to two days since January. His contract is due to expire at the end of May.

The council spokesman said the PR consultant had been paid £9,613.40 so far at a daily rate of £850 plus VAT and travelling expenses.

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