Earlier this year I noticed the use of cut 'n paste quotes on the media section of the Council website, here and here. Being a blogger, I happen to be one of their few avid readers and soon noticed that this was a common ploy covering a variety of repeated topics. Even today we have a quote from Cllr Jim Jones, the new Executive Board Member for the environment concerning a man fined for fly posting. It is a repeat, word for word, from articles on the 27th March and the 24th January this year but those were attributed to the Technical Services Director, Richard Workman.
In one way it doesn't matter, the message the council wants to get across is made as is their desire to see the offending resident named and shamed as a dire warning to others.
But why falsely attribute a quote? No, Cllr Jones didn't say 'that' at all, Cllr Jones didn't say sod all, in fact.
I have read many such 'quotes' and after hearing assorted councillors and officers speaking at meetings I find it unlikely they'd be capable of churning out these bitesize chunks of polished spin anyway. When it comes to attributing quotes to elected members, it gives an entirely false impression of their degree of involvement. And inevitably, and worse still, these none-quotes get published in the local media. I wonder how the council press office will handle the requirement to publish the annual 'record of achievement' from each councillor? Will they bear any resemblance to the truth? Eighteen days into June, we've had twenty seven press releases on the council website, but not a glimmer of the Minutes from the AGM on the 1st, I imagine the press team are giving them a final polish.
As we know, this Council and it's senior officers are self obsessed with image, but there is a fine balance to be made between maintaining a positive corporate profile and, to put it bluntly, lying. I have also heard from many employees who are 'too afraid to speak to the press', never mind the repeated tales of editorial interference from County Hall in the running of our local papers.
This council spends a small fortune on PR which includes the dire council rag, the 'Carmarthenshire News', at best the content from the Department of Spin is downright patronising to residents, at worst, it is misleading disinformation.
"Press releases will include quotes from the appropriate Chief Officer or their representative and the appropriate Executive Board member. They will be approved before being released.....maximise the number of proactive News Releases and photographs issued to ensure that good news stories are actively promoted.......Press coverage is regularly analysed to determine % positive....." (From Carmarthenshire Council's Media Protocol)