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Council’s information response queried

council4A FREEDOM of Information Act request has revealed that while local authorities across Wales have been cutting budgets for key services, the budgets of Council PR operations have remained largely unaffected and have, in some cases, risen significantly.

As The Herald reported previously, Carmarthenshire County Council announced raised rents, cuts to the leisure and regeneration budgets, and huge cuts to the capital programme for works on social care and housing from 2014/15’s c.£29m of gross spending to under £15m in the next year and around £3.4m in 2018/19.

Among the limited number of services which did not suffer cuts, the council’s own communications budget was protected.

However, while Carmarthenshire County Council’s press office is larger than any other councils in Wales it did not report that state of affairs when responding to a request made by The Press Gazette.

The wording of the request was: “How many staff are employed in your council’s communications department? Please provide job titles.”

Carmarthen County Council reported ten communications staff, but significantly omitted the Council’s Press Office from its response, as can be seen from the nature of the job titles reported, which omitted the Council’s Press Manager and other press officers.

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Cardiff County Council reported twenty staff, which included a number of staff working on its own in-house puff magazine. Carmarthenshire County Council appears to have neglected to include those staff on the semantic point that the Council’s communications unit is a separate entity from its significant press and spin operation.

In answering to the letter of the query, as opposed to its clear underlying intent, Carmarthenshire’s Council once again has laid itself open to a charge of even spinning its own spin.