Edinburgh council to hire £73,000 spin doctor

The council building in East Market Street. Picture: TSPL
The council building in East Market Street. Picture: TSPL
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IT’S a role made famous by Alastair Campbell with New Labour and the foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker in hit comedy The Thick of It, but now the city council is inviting applications to become its chief spin doctor – with a salary of up to £73,000 per year.

The successful candidate will supervise 55 staff as well as overseeing the council’s media output and marketing campaigns within a standard 36-hour week.

As well as “day-to-day management of the media”, the chief spinner’s CV should show them to be “forward thinking” and possess “innovative ideas about new ways of conveying the council’s messages”.

The council claims the new role, which has been created as part of a “wider restructure”, will “save money”. But public finance watchdogs have railed against the high-paying post, claiming the city is “throwing taxpayers’ money away”.

Eben Wilson, director of TaxpayerScotland, said: “This is an astounding amount of money for a propagandist, and seems to be about double the going rate in commercial markets. Edinburgh may be a capital with international reach but they should look again at what they need to spend.

“Openly advertised without a salary band, they would be flooded with applications and it would be a buyer’s market. They are throwing taxpayers’ money away.”

However, industry experts have suggested the advertised salary may be too low to attract “serious candidates”. One public relations insider said: “You might be looking at middle management level in terms of applications because top PRs can expect to earn significantly more than that. It’s a fair salary but wouldn’t cut the mustard with the top in the field.”

On the prospect of ear-bashings from a Malcolm Tucker-style candidate, deputy leader Steve Cardownie said: “No doubt the language would be more colourful, but it’s probably unlikely we would get someone like that. And I think it would take a very, very good spin doctor, as you call it, to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of Edinburgh.

“The salary being offered is the going rate for that kind of job. If you want to compete and you want to attract the candidates of the highest 
calibre that’s what you have to do. It’s not a salary level I’ve ever enjoyed, but it’s what people are looking for and expect to be offered these days.”

Despite only just being announced, rumours are already circling about potential favourites. It is understood these include former Scotsman journalist and ex-MSP David Whitton and one-time Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce deputy chief Graham Birse, now a director at Edinburgh Napier University.

Alastair Maclean, director of corporate governance, said: “The corporate communications manger will play a lead role in shaping the way the council communicates with its citizens whilst ensuring best value is achieved across the service. This new role has been created as part of a wider restructure which will save money.”