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Leese defends £38k ‘Facebook boss’

Council must move with the times and save cash, says Leader

Published on October 27th 2010.

Leese defends £38k ‘Facebook boss’

Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese has defended the decision to recruit for a 'Facebook boss’ on a salary of £38,000 a year.

The council caused controversy when it advertised the new media manager post last week in a climate where local authorities are under pressure to make cuts. The role will have responsibility for ‘web presence’ and online interaction with the public.

Sir Richard, writing on his blog, said the increased use of social media would save the council money and also took a swipe at the Manchester Evening News’ coverage of the story, saying it was ‘a bit rich coming from a source that now covers our council meetings by tweet, happily employing somebody to do so.’

‘The biggest and most important bit of 'new media' we use is our website,’ he said. ‘Over one and a half million page views average in the first nine months of the year. People looking for a whole range of information (jobs is top of the list and the link to Job Centre+ is one of the most used) and people ordering repairs, paying bills and doing a whole range of transactions with the council.

‘The average cost of these transactions done face-to-face is £26.40, the average cost on-line is 14-18p. So a well-designed, highly functional, interactive web-site not only provides a better, faster, more convenient service, it also saves the council, and the council taxpayers money.

‘Using digital means the council managed to save 40 per cent of the previous year’s budget promoting our Spring Markets with better and more measurable outcomes. Recently we have, with schools, run successful school attendance campaigns and started to improve our historically very poor attendance record.

‘ If we want to communicate effectively with young people in particular, and there are proportionally a lot of young people in this city, then social media sites are likely to be far more effective than traditional print media. Over the last eighteen months we have been running our very effective Helping Hands campaign, both web and print based, aimed at providing support to individuals, families and companies affected by the recession.

‘These are all part of the Council's core business and if we are to do them well then we have to employ people with the right skills to do them.’

Paul Shannon, deputy leader of the Lib Dem group, had called the decision ‘bonkers’. “Exceptional circumstances might include hiring social workers,” he said. “It does not include a new manager for Facebook and Twitter.”

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27 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Leigh ScottOctober 27th 2010.

£26.40 face to face?

If I agree to do all my transactions on line, how much can I expect to save in c-tax next year?

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

I don't the actual role is a bad idea but the salary is way over the top considering the labour market.

Eddy RheadOctober 27th 2010.

Im a little upset ManCon has lowered itself to MEN type journalism. Seeing as the Confidential 'brand' is entirely web based you, more than anyone, should see how important this sort of role is in a modern organisation. Richard Leese also makes the same point. MCC is a huge operation, it s only right they should have someone to oversee new media - whether we like it or not its here to stay and an increasingly important part of our lives - and the council should reflect that.

Jonathan Schofield - editorOctober 27th 2010.

Eddy eh? Aren't we supportive of the Council here by putting SRL's arguments so clearly? And you know Eddy there's always some absurdity coming up round the corner on Confidential


EDITORIAL COMMENT. This rant has been deleted because of its content and because it was written in capitals. If the author wants to talk to the editor directly why this keeps happening please email jonathans@manchesterconfidential.com

GoergonOctober 28th 2010.

The idea is a sound one. Communication is necessary via the web is cheaper

Mark R Garner, PublisherOctober 28th 2010.

It's not often that I come on here to defend my Editorial, or the council for that matter, their shoulders are all broad enough as both Sir Richard and Jonathan can demonstrate all on their own.

I spent most of my summer making my own mind up both here, and in New York in the company of a team of social media people seeing how they use the various tools of the medium in mass retail and I learned an awful lot, they were eighteen months ahead of us.

What I saw convinced me to encourage the team here in Manchester to take a bold step up in their efforts to involve Confidential in this step change in the use of the Internet and we are going hell for leather to do so.

Manchester City Council are absolutely right to grasp this technology; it is proven, it works, it is super efficient at getting messages across and finally, it will save fortunes for any large organisation or body like a council who need to get messages across to huge numbers of people.

The communication team at the council should be applauded in their efforts, not sniped at by a newspaper who were so backward in their future planning that they have allowed a young upstart like Confidential to take their place as the voice of Manchester.

Invest that money Sir Howard and Sir Richard, it will pay you back many times over, I have seen it work.

AnonymousOctober 28th 2010.

Do we even have local print media anymore? I thought the MEN was based in liverpool now

mOctober 28th 2010.

The article is fair and balanced. The headline is a bit 'MEN'.

'Leese defends £38k Facebook boss' is more sensationalist than 'Council to appoint online social media expert'.

The latter shows that the council view social media as an important part of their services. As residents we should expect to see improvements in this area and as business owners or managers you may want to take note of the direction the council is taking with it's communications strategy.

The current headline reads as 'council defend the decision to waste 38k of your hard earned taxes on fat cat boss who emails his mates on facebook all day. Please rant below. In caps if possible.'

It's a bit 'MEN' in style.

Simon Binns - News EditorOctober 28th 2010.

I'll respond to this, as I put the story up and wrote the headline.

The decision to use the term 'Facebook boss' in the headline was a reference to the way other media outlets reported it. We didn't use that term.

M - you read the headline to mean a 'waste' of £38k - I don't take it to mean that at all and don't think any inference is given by the headline one way or the other.

The decision to make the appointment is old news - Leese's defence is new - hence it;s referred to in the headline.

Hopefully, the piece is balanced - we've not taken a view of the post, the salary or anything else either way

Sorry about the lack of caps...

Eddy RheadOctober 28th 2010.

@ Jonathan - its a non story. Simply by running it you are poking the slumbering 'taxpayer' beast. You wouldnt run a story on any other organisation as big a MCC appointing for such a role would you?

AnonymousOctober 28th 2010.

Please ManCon, stop being so self absorbed. I like this website but find all this commenting by staff, which is usually sarcastic or condescending, to be a bit cringeworthy. You wrote a story, it got a tiny bit of flak. Does it really need the journalist, editor and owner to come on and justify their positions? In the nicest possible way, get over yourselves!

GMSOctober 28th 2010.

'any other organisation' is not paid for by the the people via Council Tax.

The headline simply draws you in to the article which is what it is supposed to do and it work because you all read it.

Man, are we struggling for things to moan about at the mo?

Christopher BryanOctober 28th 2010.

I thought the ManCon approach here was spot on. There's no commentary just to two arguments put together really.

Essentially MCC are after someone to manage and develop their website alongside social media channels. Seems a very sound approach to me given the size of the organisation, the cost benefits and the future importance of online systems.

Shame on the MEN (although it's what I've come to expect) and more so on the local Lib Dems to stoop to political points scoring by glossing over what the actual job role involves. Most jobs can be glossed over and misrepresented if you try hard enough.

Finally, is this the new way? Any cost the Council commits to is going to be measured in how many social workers it's equal too?

Eddy RheadOctober 28th 2010.

@GMS - why is there the assumption that just because the Council gets its revenue from taxes that it should spend its money in a different way from any other organisation? The Council has a huge range of services and a huge range of 'customers'. I would say it is failing in its duty if it doesnt respond to the needs of those 'customers' in the best way possible and social media is now an integral part of many of our lives.
@ManCon - maybe i was bit hasty in criticising* you - its just the original 'story' annoyed the hell out of me when i saw it in the MEN and was annoyed when i saw it repeated here.
* what is the correct way to spell 'criticising' by the way? Perhaps some of your professional critics can put me right on the matter?

Jonathan Schofield - editorOctober 28th 2010.

It's criticising. We're paid to know that.

AnonymousOctober 28th 2010.

Forget facebook, Manchester City Council's website (particularly Planning section) is a joke. Compared to other, much smaller, local authority websites it is like something from the dark ages. Maybe they do need someone to bring them up to date.

Anon tooOctober 28th 2010.

Anon, I think the council's website was recently redone to the cost of £32,000, if mempry serves me.

Cheap compared to a lot of local authority websites, but I'm not sure it's a massive improvement on the old version.

Eddy RheadOctober 28th 2010.

@ Editor - thank you @Anonymous - agreed. The MCC website is tedious in the extreme. The Planning section is designed to deter mere mortals from getting involved in the planning process. Lets hope this overpaid Facebook Boss sorts it out.

Really poor siteOctober 28th 2010.

Good lord if you want to see a poor website from a city agency take a peek at VisitManchester.com It's a confused nightmare that jams your computer after three searches. It's been over-designed by graphic designers who wanted a good look and sod the functionality. Hey, Confidential boys, find out how much that cost wouldya? It's a disgrace, and useless for visitors.

annieaOctober 28th 2010.

What we dont want to see is a big rise in our council tax to reflect this and that the money will be coming from some other area. we have just been told that the massive hike in Tram cost will be due to the extra metal going up to rochdale this is out of order and unwelcome as well as unfair to the Manchester folk who have been paying for this for yrs in days when they would just lay off the service stranding folk at stations with tickets not used.

Duke FameOctober 28th 2010.

Dear MCC, just cut out this nonsense and reduve our taxes. Leese is an out of touch fool.

Smyth HarperOctober 29th 2010.

Interesting piece and rants. I think most Mancon readers understand the importance of new media.

Couple of points. The role isn't a new one - it's replacing a highly talented and able new media manager who is moving on to pastures new.

It's also not, and never has been, a "Facebook boss". As Sir Richard points out on his blog, it's about using new media as a tool to reduce costs, engage with residents and provide vital support to front line services. Quick example - keeping a child in care costs about £25k a year. The cost of having a child in foster care is much, much cheaper. We've successfully used both traditional and new media channels to recruit new foster carers, which saves us a fortune and also is better for the kids themselves. More info on council fostering at http://www.fosterformanchester.com - it's people like you we need!

Finally, on council tax, it's worth pointing out that over the past 10 years, Manchester City Council tax increases have been the third lowest in the country. This year, for example, there was a council tax freeze. At the same time, we have been enhancing our front line services and investing more in the services our residents have told us we should prioritise.

Smyth Harper, head of news, Manchester City Council

TomegranateOctober 29th 2010.

Thanks Man Con for giving a much-needed response to that bollocks MEN piece.
I would love you more than is healthy if you could do this for at least one MEN article every week. God knows the material is there for it.

Long tunnel but is there light at the end of it?October 29th 2010.

18 months ahead they are Gordo, still believe an app for Heros and rest reviews would go down a treat.... waiting for you to see the light

Leigh ScottOctober 29th 2010.

Smythe 3rd lowest rise how many businesses would use that as a selling point?

As for those who use the term 'customer',as far as I am concerned, I am only a customer If I have wilfully entered in to an agreement with someone who is selling me a product or service. The council do not sell me a product or a service, they enforce a tax for which I must pay else I will be jailed. I think the council should just get on with whatever they do in the town hall and try not to promote it's activities in any way, shape or form.
Since you take my money against my will 12 months in advance of delivering very little, please don't be upset when others like me complain of your lack of business nouse. Then again if you are making efficiency savings then please, behave like successful and competetive businesses by offering me a better deal and or reduction in price to buy my heart and mind.

GordoOctober 29th 2010.

Long Tunnel, slow down, take a deep breath and start again son.

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