In the Media

Police force spends ?140,000 on three 'Twitter tsars' as it axes 500 officers

PUBLISHED March 23, 2012

Sussex Police say they need to spend the money on the posts within the press office to maintain their 'popular website', teach officers to use Twitter and sell the idea of cuts to its workforce.

The jobs are being filled at the same time as officers who complete 30 years' service are being canned to cut costs.

Sussex Police is in the middle of a £50 million cost-cutting programme involving the loss of 500 officers and 550 other staff.

The force's corporate communications and public engagement department has a £1.1 million annual budget.

This has reduced by about £16,000 since the cuts began last year.

The jobs available include a media relations officer, dealing with the press, two divisional communications managers and one departmental communications manager.

The roles will help people set up and use social media, arrange neighbourhood meetings and aid senior officers in updating rank and file.

A change communications project manager will also help the force deal with the changes it is making under its savings programme.

All the jobs are being advertised with salaries of between £25,449 and £28,107.

The force said it is not recruiting any extra staff but replacing five posts because of departures, maternity leave and role changes.

The recruitment divided opinion among hopefuls planning to stand for election as the country's first police and crime commissioner in November.

Conservative Peter Jones, leader of East Sussex County Council, said: 'Police, like everybody else, need to communicate effectively with the public.

'However in those terms, when frontline police officer posts are under pressure I think we need to take a careful look at the level of press establishment.'

Labour Paul Richards said: 'You need people to be able to tell the public how their money is being spent.'

Ian Chisnall, who intends to stand as an independent candidate said: 'I would err on the side that more communications are better than less communications but obviously there has to be a sense of proportion with it all.

'If one department was growing fat while everyone else was on rations that then becomes a risk that the people you want to do the communications become the story.'

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: 'Keeping the public well informed and using communications to enhance operational policing are ongoing priorities for us.

'The corporate communications and public engagements and public engagement department carries out a wide range of tasks from witness appeals about murders and updates during large policing events to maintaining our popular website and advising on the best ways to communicate in local areas.

'A small team of specialists provides these services in the most effective way, rather than others in the force being abstracted from their own work.'

He said the department is not growing and the recruitment was caused by departures and maternity leave. Three of the posts are temporary.