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Essex County Council wasting our money again?

Shock report shows County Hall spent over £1m on freelance social media influencers

22 February 2024

Essex County Council wasting our money again?

One individual Simon Harris received more than £500,000 from Essex County Council to run Facebook groups and carry out other digital work during the Covid pandemic.

Others, such as South Woodham Ferrers’ Jon Morter, received nearly £100, 000 from Essex County Council for work opaquely named  ‘Digital Consultancy Support’ and ‘Digital Communities Mapping’.

Essex County Council has announced an investigation although Leader, Kevin Bentley, defended the spending saying there was “a time where we need to get information out quickly”. However, at an Essex County Council meeting on 13 February he said he was stopping the contracts saying “it's not the same as it is now and that's why we are stopping the contracts on this”

The South Woodham Ferrers Residents Party is seeking confirmation that this applies to all social media influencing contracts which it believes should no longer be awarded with public communications going through the Council’s own professional, in-house Communications team instead so that all taxpayer spending and activity can be tracked transparently.

Chairman of the South Woodham Residents Party, Keith Bentley, said: “Essex County Council is once again spending our money irresponsibly. They ought to have learnt from previous scandals involving spending on corporate credit cards and more but it seems they can’t help themselves.

“We question the suitability of some of the individuals who have been paid large sums of money for social media influencing when we have experience of the same individuals causing harm in their communities through malign activity on their own social media platforms.

“Our money needs to be spent transparently with clear accountability, which is why we call on Essex County Council to come forward with more detail on what the money was spent on and how its effectiveness was measured. Also, for them to develop and vote on a more effective social media policy, stop paying social media influencers and make better use of their own communications team.”

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