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Birmingham council’s new PR boss is costing taxpayers’ £935 a day

Birmingham council’s new PR boss is costing taxpayers’ £935 a day

🕔22.Sep 2015

Birmingham city council is paying £935 a day for the services of an image-building communications expert, Chamberlain Files can reveal.

London-based ‘communications specialist’ James Flynn was hired to improve the presentation of a culture change exercise drawn up following the highly critical Kerslake Review which exposed poor leadership and widespread governance failings at the council.

His job title is Interim Assistant Director for Communications, which carries an annual salary banding of between £78,000 and £92,000.

It’s emerged that Mr Flynn is employed through Birmingham-based HR consultants Penna who are being paid £935 for each day he works for the council: £4,675 for a five day week.

It is not known how much of the £935 goes to Mr Flynn, and how much is retained by Penna, or how many days a week he is working at the council.

The cost for a 45-week year, excluding annual leave and bank holidays, could hit £210,000 – more than twice as much as the top salary banding for assistant director posts at the council.

Although the council is paying Penna it will reclaim the money. The post is being funded by the Government through a £4.37 million grant from the Department for Communities and Local Government to support delivery of the post-Kerslake Future Council change programme.

There is no indication how long Mr Flynn will be at the council or when the communications post will be advertised and filled permanently.

The council issued a statement when asked by Chamberlain Files how much Mr Flynn was being paid:

James Flynn is covering a newly created post of Assistant Director for Communications. The annual salary banding for AD posts ranges from £78,000 to £92,000. This post is being funded by the Government as part of their investment in the Future Council improvement programme, the permanent post will be advertised in due course.

When pressed further, the council admitted:

James Flynn is employed through the interim agency Penna and is not paid directly by the council. Penna’s daily rate for this role is £935 per day.

The bill for Penna’s services is slightly less than the £1,100 a day the council is paying London-based executive search agency Green Park for the services of Sarah Homer, the interim director of service delivery who is in day-to-day charge of pushing through the Kerslake reforms.

Mr Flynn has 20 years’ senior level experience, managing communications for several high profile public service organisations, in both permanent and interim roles and working as a consultant, according to his LinkedIn page.

He is the owner of Flynn Communications, a London-based PR firm specialising in delivering communications strategies for public sector organisations. He is a former head of PR at Hackney and Southwark councils in London.

News of Mr Flynn’s interim appointment emerged in a letter from Birmingham city council leader Sir Albert Bore to John Crabtree, chair of the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel.

Sir Albert said:

Additional capacity is also being provided in the areas of human resources, organisational development, change management and communications.

All these areas are important to the council’s effective future functioning, but the commencement in the first week of September of an Interim (Assistant Director-level) Strategic Communications officer demonstrates that we share the Panel’s view that this area of our improvement programme needs to be driven harder and faster.

We have, over the summer, engaged external advisors to develop with us a strategic communications plan that will aim to reframe the way the city council comes across to the public, building on our strengths, such as economic performance, diversity, and honestly and openly highlighting our effectiveness in delivering improvements in children’s safeguarding, education and corporate governance.

It’s thought Mr Flynn will remain in post until the completion of a strategic communications plan and he will also work on a What Makes Birmingham Great campaign.

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