Embargoed: 00:01 Tuesday 29th October
Research by the TaxPayers' Alliance shows that councils throughout the UK employ an average of four press officers each. Despite many local authorities claiming a lack of funding from central government, some councils employ more press officers than government departments. For example, Gloucestershire council had more press officers than the Department for International Trade in 2018-19.1
Sheffield city council topped the list with 24 press officers in 2018-19 which is only one less than the Department for Exiting the European Union during the same period.
Even High Speed 2 (HS2) Ltd employed fewer press officers (11) than Warwickshire (14) and Nottinghamshire (13) county councils which are both affected by the project.
- In 2018-19, at least 1,370 people were employed as press officers in local councils throughout the UK. This was 26 more than in 2016-17.
24 councils employed 10 or more press officers in 2018-19.
- Sheffield city council had 24 press officers in 2018-19, the highest of any council in the UK. This is one less than the Department for Exiting the European Union during the same period. This council recently advertised for a press role which required an "experienced communications professional to join the council’s award-winning communication team and deliver fantastic campaigns to audiences in Sheffield and beyond".
Richmond upon Thames borough council was by far the biggest spender on outside bodies, spending a total of £1,194,000, or £398,000 per year in each of 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
- Seven councils spent taxpayers’ money on outside bodies. These councils had an average of 5.41 press employees, compared to a national average of 4.01 press employees nationally over three years.
- Fife council is the only council to feature high in both employees and spending, being the third highest spender on outside bodies while simultaneously being the twenty-second highest employer of press staff in 2018-19.
Scott Simmonds of the TaxPayers' Alliance said:
"With council tax hammering hard-working families, town hall directors should question whether hiring more spin doctors than big government departments is the best use of taxpayers' money.
"It's of course useful for councils to communicate information about local services, but some residents may wonder if there is too much focus on fancy PR and not enough on fixing potholes and collecting bins.
"Some councils are able to keep residents up-to-date without bloated PR teams. Other councils should be following in their footsteps to ensure the best value for taxpayers' money."
TPA spokesmen are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast interviews via 07795 084 113 (no texts)
Political Director, TaxPayers' Alliance
24-hour media hotline: 07795 084 113 (no texts)
- A full breakdown of press officers in government departments and selected quangos can be found here.
- Founded in 2004 by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum, and now with 80,000 supporters, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) fights to reform taxes, reduce spending and protect taxpayers. Find out more about the TaxPayers' Alliance at www.taxpayersalliance.com.
- TaxPayers' Alliance's advisory council.