Tuesday 21 April 2015

FOI - bending the truth?

A few week's ago, Press Gazette ran a story listing the number of PR staff, or 'spin doctors' employed by council Press Offices across the UK. The story then appeared in the Western Mail.

The figures were obtained under a Freedom of Information request which asked; "How many staff are employed in your council's communications department? Please provide job titles". 

The response from Carmarthenshire Council was ten, and the job titles included Communication Manager, Advertising Officer, Web Editor, graphic designers and Print Officer.

What puzzles me is that Carmarthenshire's response appears to have conveniently omitted the Press Office - the whole point of the FOI. As far as I can tell, Carmarthenshire's Press Office still exists, along with its Press Manager, Ms Debbie Williams. The Communications Unit and its manager is a separate entity.

The clear purpose behind the FOI was to determine how much is being spent on unnecessary PR and spin when frontline services are being axed, and it is undoubtedly in a council's best interests, reputationally speaking, to send back the lowest figure possible.

Could it possibly be the case that Carmarthenshire Council have taken the FOI request so literally that they only included the Communications Unit and, er, forgot all about its Department of Spin Press Office?

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