Council’s new media chief flogging story to tabloids

Another leak from Croydon Council‘s secretive press department in their lofty Taberner House office reaches Inside CroydonTowers.

Croydon public servant Danny Brierley doesn't want you to know what he looks like. What is he ashamed of? If you are curious, you can check out his public LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=29110392&locale=en_US&trk=tyah2

Danny Brierley, the Burnley supporting former deputy editor of Your Croydon, our very own “Town Hall Pravda” (copyright Eric Pickles), has been promoted to the grandiosely titled “head of media relations”, with attendant boost for his already generous salary.

That Brierley will now be managed by a trained psychologist, Hayley Lewis, could be extraordinarily apt, some might suggest. Indeed, some council insiders believe it is the very reason for Lewis’s appointment.

Before jumping on-board the local authority media gravy train in 2009, Brierley had worked for the Croydon Guardian freesheet, and briefly at the Evening Standard.

As if to prove the adage that self-praise is no recommendation, Brierley lists his key competencies as: “Copywriting, copy editing, media relations” Ha! “media law, subediting” note the absence of the sub’s usually essential hyphen? “publications, public relations” oh, pull the other one, “social media, crisis management”. Crisis management? In Croydon? Shurely shome mishtake.

With last year’s canning of Croydon’s free paper on government orders, Brierley’s role seemed to devolve to ranting at local media, resulting in at least one formal complaint about his inappropriate behaviour which went all the way to the borough solicitor and resulted in a formal apology from erstwhile department head Matt Burrows.

Otherwise, Brierley seems to spend much of his day sending messages on Twitter, often using his personal account, @dannybananas, usually about Burnley Football Club (“views strictly those of the author”).

Interesting to note that Croydon’s “head of media relations” is so much not in touch with the media business that last week he had to Tweet publicly to Charlie Sale, the Daily Mail‘s notorious and award-winning sports diarist, asking him for his email address:  “Got a story for you”, Brierley nudged, perhaps in the hope of a “tip fee”.

Whether feeding news tips to national newspaper sports columns is appropriate conduct for a local council’s head of media relations, we will leave to Hayley Lewis to determine.

Brierley’s Tweetings also include a description of a recent BBC Panorama as “utterly brilliant”. That the programme in question was about the struggles of Doreen Lawrence, mother of murder victim Stephen Lawrence, might be a matter of some concern for Croydon Councillor David Osland.

It is at times like this that Inside Croydon refers to the writings of Brierley’s new boss, Hayley Lewis, for some guidance into the opaque workings of Croydon Council.

Lewis, one of Croydon CEO’s hand-picked executives, recently pondered aloud about the roles of corporate support services – such as a press department, for example. She even asked the rhetorical question of her own department: “An unnecessary burden?”

Lewis wrote about “the age old battle between those on the front line and those in the centre. The battle is based on worthiness. Who does a job that matters?

“In my current organisation…  a worthy job is being a social worker or a neighbourhood enforcement officer, an unworthy job is managing complaints and FOI.” Or working in the press office, perhaps?

Lewis, for whom the phrase “front line” is transferred effortlessly from Iraq or Afghanistan to the delivery of council services on the streets of Croydon, puts forward a strong case for support departments – such as the ones that she has been working in at customer services, and was soon to find herself assigned to in the press office.

“Where does this perception and subsequent behaviour stem from? I think there are a variety of means from where this has come:

Crisis management: There is a fundamental difference between a child dying because of poor approaches to social care than there is a finance report not being published on time. This then immediately dictates and sets the perceived importance of a role and a function. However, without the interventions of say, HR & OD, how would we turn around a poor performing service?

Member involvement and interest: I’ve seen the things that get elected members raring to go, as opposed to sleeping with their eyes open. It’s things such as changes to waste and recycling, libraries, youth services. It’s not a roll out plan for the latest wave of technology changes. This then pervades the organisation as officers pick up what matters most to members. It’s the things that will get (or lose) them votes in the next election. This doesn’t tend to be things that oil the wheels internally… unless of course, this leaks out into the public domain like a poorly negotiated contract or a particularly litigious employment tribunal.”

What could she have in mind?

It’s all fascinating stuff, and material that Croydon’s “head of media relations” might do well to note in the first few weeks of his new role.

We’ll leave Brierley, and our loyal reader, with one final note from Croydon Council’s very own shrink at the top, Hayley Lewis:

“Organisational silos: A phrase that I see used a lot, particularly in the local government domain, is ‘one team’. At this point in time, I’m not sure to what extent that is a true reality. It feels a bit of a tired old phrase that gets wheeled out but no-one takes seriously.”

So remember, Danny: One Team. And it ain’t Burnley.

  • Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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