Suffolk County Council spent £1,400 on pictures of its chief exective
16:55 18 March 2011
Suffolk County Council spent over £1,400 on a set of photographs of its chief executive, it emerged today.
More than £1,400 of taxpayers’ money was spent on the 40 pictures of Andrea Hill.
The bill for the photographs, taken at the council’s Endeavour House HQ, came to £1,474.74p and was settled in July last year – weeks before the county announced radical cost-cutting plans to shed services.
News of the expenditure follows revelations that more than £12,000 was spent on specialist coaching sessions for he £218,000-a-year chief executive and other members of the corporate management team.
The images of Mrs Hill were supplied to the EDP’s publisher Archant, by Suffolk County Council, last year.
However, it took four Freedom of Information (FOI) requests before the full details of the payments for the pictures emerged. Initially, the authority had denied any money had been paid for the photographs.
Today, opposition councillors questioned why the authority sanctioned spending money on photographs of its chief executive at a time of major budget cuts which have seen funding reduced or withdrawn for a raft of public services including school crossing patrols, libraries, youth clubs and bus service subsidies.
Liberal Democrat leader Kathy Pollard said: “The figures for these photographs are very interesting. I got some photographs taken for various purposes, including sending them out to the media, and that cost me £35 so this is a very large amount. Nearly £1,500 is a ridiculous amount to spend.”
Mrs Pollard said it would have been better for the county council to retain its own photographer instead – particularly given that the council did not actually own the copyright of the pictures.
She added: “People will be asking themselves whether this is a good use of public money.”
A council spokesman said the photographs were taken “for a range of uses including internal communications, external communications and media releases” and were used “as and when required”.
The FOI request shows the council spent a further £7,706.50 with the same company – Bedford-based photographer Robert Johns – for pictures of directors and for work described as “Suffolk Story and Cookbook”.
Meanwhile, between April and December last year the council spent £33,233 on photographs.
This comfortably exceeds the £17,790 paid during the financial year 2008/9 and £17,233 spent in 2009/10.
Earlier this month, it emerged that the county council had paid £12,000 to ‘change coach’ Sol Davidson for 23 sessions with Mrs Hill. Mr Davidson, who was also paid for sessions with council leader Jeremy Pembroke, is said to be an expert in “leading on the edge of chaos” and “converting breakdowns into breakthroughs”.
A spokesman for the council said: “Suffolk County Council has been asked a number of questions about photography since October. In all cases, every effort was made to provide as much information as possible.
“Due to changes in staffing, it would appear that some information was not provided in the earlier responses. We’ve now fully rectified the situation. As is the case with all local authorities, Suffolk County Council receives requests for, and requires, photographs of our senior officers and elected councillors to help demonstrate what the council does and who is involved in doing it. We always strive to keep costs to a minimum and get the best possible value out of the photography we commission.”