Friday, June 25, 2010

Press Office – Nearly a million a year is it fit for purpose.

As a blogger I feel in awe of journalists, the word is one I don’t like to use in any connection with blogging, even when its prefaced with citizen- I know my limitations I don’t write I “post”, the finished article is a post. The fact is a journalist is someone who has to be able to produce saleable, readable space filling text which is informative, entertaining or thought provoking etc.

As a blogger I’ll sometimes contact media departments, some are helpful, some aren't apparently, KCC Media & Communications which cost you and I £807,000-00 to run in the year 2008-9 admittedly it’s less than the termination bonuses/payments of three senior Kent “officers” in the last year, anyhow I feel they could be a lot more helpful. As an example I asked to have a copy of the full statement** (assuming there may have been more than was quoted) given on behalf of KCC by Cllr Gough, quoted in an article by Paul Francis as explaining the extraordinary payment to former KCC employee Adam Wilkinson, I understand the “officer” I spoke with would have to get permission?

Now I can understand, the irritation of having me on the end of a phone, so I recently sent a long verbose email, the content of which and ensuing responses are detailed below, basically asking why officers in the past have not done what they said they would do and whether bloggers were not treated equally with proper professionals. The response was no surprise and looked like the bland evasive response I fully expected.

It’s my opinion that Kent’s press office does not serve the community, the only time I got a rapid response from them was when I speculated that the then Chief Exec and couple of others might have gone off on some overseas mission courtesy of local taxpayer, I was quickly disabused of that, apparently it was er taxpayers via the EU paying similar but different.

I think its time “officers” went back to that public service ethos rather than all that recent claptrap about Kent being a business.

Anyhow if your not entirely exhausted by the above here’s that recent email correspondence. I think having read the reply I got, the author some how decided to answer just my first point.

My** next post is my conclusion as to why KCC paid out 360 odd thousands to Adam Wilkinson, of course it will all be conjecture since Kent Council and Kents Conservatives don’t want us knowing too much do they!

** A copy of the statement arrived after I posted this

This email is intended for Jane Clarke Head of Communications and Media Centre

Hi Jane Clarke

I wonder if you could please be kind enough to explain what the role of your department is.

The reason, I ask, is this, as a blogger wishing to comment on local affairs, sometimes I refer to KCC polices, initiatives and departments, I have on occasion requested information from your colleagues, who always sound helpful and frequently offer to come back with information on the same day, however in practice this is rare.

I'm drawn to the conclusion that your department, is whether by design or lack of resources etc, choking off legitimate enquires.

An example, last week I had been invited to speak at a debate held by the media dept at Canterbury Christchurch Univ. as background, I thought it relevant to have some idea of the resources or budget KCC had at its disposal in informing the public, despite your colleagues claiming they'd call back, no surprise that they didn't.

I appreciate that you deal with "professional" journalists, and I'm just a blogger but I do have a readership, some of whom include " professional journalists", so could you at least set me straight as to whether your department treats inquires equally or what?


tony flaig - Bignews Margate

4 Jun

Dear Mr Flaig‬
Thank you for your email received yesterday requesting information about the role of KCC's Press Office.
We will reply with the information you request in the next two working days.
Phil Scrivener
Senior Media Relations Officer
Kent County Council

8 Jun

Dear Tony

You asked about the role of the press office. The main role is to help keep our residents informed about the wide range of public services that the council delivers and any changes in services that affects them.

The press office team promotes the activities, decision and policies of the council and we respond to a large number of calls from the media on a variety of subjects. As you know, we are the largest shire authority in the country. Our services are delivered to over

1.4 million people and cover a wide range of areas such as education, social services, sports development, arts, libraries, public health, environment, highways, waste disposal, recycling, and corporate issues.

The team communicates in a variety of different ways - through our website, press releases, photos, short films, events and Twitter.


Phil Scrivener

Kent County Council


  1. Tony, at least this government is planning to put a stop to local councils propaganda machines with this announcement:-

    Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said independent local papers should not face competition from "propaganda on the rates".

    Mr Pickles wants to stop what he called "town hall Pravdas" passing themselves off as independent journalism.

    I wonder is Mr Pickles realises that the same can apply to so called internet TV as well.

  2. You cannot expect openness from any media department, the reason they exist is to promote a company or organisation. Propaganda on the rates,is the phrase.