Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Rotherham Council pays Mark Fletcher-Brown £850 a day

Rotherham Council sign
Image caption Mark Fletcher-Brown has been contracted to help with communications at Rotherham Borough Council following the publication of the Alexis Jay report into child sexual exploitation in the town

A council heavily criticised for its handling of child sexual exploitation cases has hired a public relations consultant at £850 a day to "provide specialist communications support".

A criminal investigation was launched after Rotherham council was found "not fit for purpose" over its handling of child sexual exploitation cases.

The council has paid PR specialist Mark Fletcher-Brown £9,613 since November.

An investigation found more than 1,400 children had been abused over 16 years.

The council's entire cabinet resigned after it was found that the authority was still failing to protect vulnerable children from harm, and that a culture of bullying, sexism and suppression existed,

'Specialist communications'

Earlier this month a council committee agreed to pay new recruits to senior management posts more due to "negative publicity" about the authority.

Now it has emerged that Midlands-based public relations specialist Mr Fletcher-Brown has been engaged to work one-and-a-half days a week, increasing to two days a week.

In a statement, following the story being reported by the Yorkshire Post, Rotherham Borough Council said: "Mark Fletcher-Brown was commissioned by the then interim chief executive in November 2014 to provide additional capacity and specialist communications support in a number of areas, at a time of significant change, challenge and increased workload for the council in dealing with the high profile coverage of failings identified in the Alexis Jay report.

"His work has included the provision of strategic and tactical advice to the interim chief executive and the strategic leadership team; the development of plans to improve communications with staff and public, and working with the in-house team on a review of the communications and marketing services provided by the council."

The council said he began working for it one-and-a-half days per week from November, and his contract was due to expire at the end of May.

Since January, he has been working two days each week with the council.

His daily rate is £850 plus VAT plus travelling expenses.

To date, the council has paid invoices totalling £9,613.40.

Mr Fletcher-Brown said in a short statement: "When authorities are having to make significant cuts, it is vital that every penny spent on communications is examined very closely.

"Excellent communication is vital to ensure that staff, citizens and service users fully understand the implications of proposed cuts.

"I work with public sector organisations to significantly reduce costs whilst improving communication."

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