Special Report: Region is counting the cost of public relations spending

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How Sheffield Council, South Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and SCR spent a combined £4,107,000 on their communications

The PR and communications bill for public services in Sheffield stands at more than £4 million.

The total spend on public relations has increased from just over £3.5m in 2012/13, but that figure does not include the bill for Sheffield City Region Combined Authority (SCR), which was only set up in 2014 to foster growth in South Yorkshire and parts of Derbyshire.

In the year to April 2017, Sheffield Council, South Yorkshire Police (SYP), South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFR), Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS), Sheffield Teaching Hospitals (STH) and SCR spent a combined £4,107,000 on their communications departments.

In 2012/13, the combined spend for those bodies, excluding SCR, was £3,525,000, Freedom of Information requests by The Star showed.

Taking SCR out of the equation, the PR and communications bill for the remaining five services last year was £3,422,000 - a reduction of £103,000 or three per cent.

Sheffield Council’s bill fell by around a fifth over those five years, from £2,040,000 to £1,609,000, the teaching hospitals trust cut its spending slightly from £302,000 to £294,000, and the fire brigade slashed its outlay from £231,000 to £176,000.

But the ambulance service’s communications budget more than doubled from £270,000 to £549,000 during that period, and SYP’s swelled from £682,000 to £794,000.

Sheffield Council and STH were unable to provide their communications and PR budget for this year, 2017/18, but the ambulance service has trimmed its expenditure to £496,000, SCR’s budget for the department is almost identical to last year’s and SYP’s and SYFR’s have risen marginally.

Taken as a percentage of the total budget, the outlay on communications and PR is a third of a per cent or less for all of the organisations except SCR.

Its marketing costs represent six per cent of its £11.9m budget and less than one per cent when the budget for South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) is taken into account.

It is perhaps not surprising a local enterprise partnership (LEP) like SCR, was set up to promote growth in the region, spends a greater proportion of its budget than other public services on communications.

An SCR spokesman said its communications work ranged from consultation with local residents and businesses to international promotions.

“Key communications over the coming year will focus on promoting initiatives which will grow existing businesses and attract new businesses to invest in SCR - creating more better jobs for local people,” he added. “Activity will build on recent SCR business successes which have included significant global investments from McLaren and Boeing.

“It will also raise the profile of SCR Horasis China which will bring over 300 senior decision makers from China to a two-day programme in Sheffield.”

Between them the six authorities employ 65 staff in their communications departments.

Sheffield Council’s 31-strong team accounts for nearly half that figure, but represents 0.5 per cent of its total workforce of 6,161.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ communications director Julie Phelan is the only one of those 65 staff paid £100,000 or more a year.

The trust said its outlay on communications was commensurate with an organisation employing approximately 16,500 staff across five hospitals and 40-plus community sites, caring for two million patients and having a £1.06 billion annual turnover.

Its chief executive Sir Andrew Cash said Ms Phelan had to be available 24/7 and also provided communications support for a number of other NHS organisations, generating £150,000 for the trust.

“Unlike other organisations all of the communications work for the trust is carried out in house and so there is no expenditure on PR agencies. The overall communications budget has also reduced since the director of communications post was put in place,” he added.

SYP spent £794,000 on communications last year and has budgeted £798,000 for the department in 2017/18, £486,000 of it will go on wages for its 15 staff.

A spokeswoman for the force said: “Staff in our communications department play a crucial role in providing the public with updates on crime in their area and in preventing and detecting those crimes.”

She added that their work included missing person and wanted appeals, updates on major incidents, and campaigns to raise public awareness about how people can protect themselves from crime.

“All of our communications work is carried out in-house, to ensure the greatest possible value for money.

“Some of the 2017 budget has been allocated to fund a new post in the department for a web designer, who will work towards improving our website so we can provide a better service to the public,” she added.

SYFR said it had cut its communications team from five to three employees over the last five years and its £181,000 budget for 2017/18 included a provisional £26,000 for agency work which would be unspent, bringing the total bill down to £155,000 - compared with £231,000 in 2012/13.

A spokesman for the force said: “The communication team’s main work is to reduce fires, deaths and injuries in South Yorkshire through targeted and rigorously evaluated public safety campaigns.

“Recently, this work included a campaign to tackle chip pan fires which was covered around the world and helped to reduce house fires in South Yorkshire by 18 per cent over Christmas.”

Where is the money going?


Spend on communications and PR

2016/17: £1,609,078

2012/13: £2,040,245

2017/18 (budgeted): N/A

Communications staff (total staff): 31 full-time

equivalent (6,161)

Total budget: £1.38bn


Spend on communications and PR

2016/17: £294,474

2012/13: £301,783

2017/18 (budgeted): N/A

Communications staff (total staff): 5 FTE


Total budget: £1.06bn


Spend on communications and PR

2016/17: £175,573

2012/13: £231,218

2017/18 (budgeted): £180,760 (including

£25,860 for agency work, which force says

will not be spent)

Communications staff (total staff): 3 FTE (860)

Total budget: £48m


Spend on communications and PR

2016/17: £793,545

2012/13: £681,856

2017/18 (budgeted): £797,905

Communications staff (total staff): 15 FTE


Total budget: £242m


Spend on communications and PR

2016/17: £685,404

2012/13: N/A

2017/18 (budgeted): £685,262

Communications staff (total staff): 5 FTE (72)

Total budget: £11.9m (£78.8m inc transport authority)


Spend on communications and PR

2016/17: £548,944

2012/13: £269,759

2017/18 (budgeted): £496,435

Communications staff (total staff): 6 FTE


Total budget: £260.5m