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Council's 'spin' budget is on the up by £100,000
A TOWN hall budget for spin is set to be hiked by £100,000 – as funding for the elderly, children’s centres and community groups is slashed.
After three years in a row of its communications team overspending, Brighton and Hove City Council has proposed to increase the unit’s budget by 15% to £784,000 for 2013/14.
The revelation comes just weeks before the local authority decides on how to make more than £17million of savings for 2013/14.
Town hall bosses believe the increase is needed to effectively get its message across to residents and its 8,000-strong workforce.
It comes as the council’s communications head John Shewell, who earned more than £60,000 a year, announced he had left his role after five years.
The Argus understands he received a pay-off of at least a five figure sum.
Mark Turner, of the GMB union, said he believed the extra money was to “PR the council’s latest tax increase”.
He added: “I find this absolutely astonishing and shocking when they are talking about cutting people’s pay.
“It’s for political parties to justify their decisions ahead of the next election, not the public service.”
According to latest estimates, the communications budget is on target for a £92,000 overspend in the current year.
Catherine Vaughan, the council’s head of finance, said the department had been trying to find ways to become selfsustainable, but “unachievable” income targets were not being reached.
She said more money was needed to maintain the current service.
When asked about the increase, Conservative councillor Geoffrey Theobald said: “I find it extremely surprising.
"To increase a budget because they cannot come in on target seems the wrong way round to me.”
But council leader Jason Kitcat said: “At a recent staff meeting internal communications was an issue of concern and it’s something that needs to be addressed when there are 8,000 members of staff.”
Coun Kitcat said the current set-up of half a full-time member of staff focusing on internal communications was “not enough”.
He added the local authority has extra responsibility when it took charge of public health from April.
Mr Shewell was placed under investigation last year after he described the council’s consultation on the budget setting process as “futile”.
A council spokeswoman refused to comment about if he received a payoff.
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