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Friday, 26 December 2014

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Comic book aims to keep council staff in the picture

A COMIC, based on the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling, has been produced by Allerdale council for its staff at a cost of £1,490.

The eight-page booklet, Harriet Potty and the Council Chamber of No Secrets, is to help staff understand the authority’s corporate improvement plan and its priorities over the next three years.

It stars members of the senior management team, Nick Fardon, David Martin and Harry Dyke, as green house-elves Lobby, Hobby and Nobby, who visit Harriet Potty in her sleep to talk about how the public are confused about Pigwarts Council’s objectives and how they tie in with the other organisations of West Kumbria.

Harriet is guided on her mission to find out more by Rod Weasle, posed by media relations officer Daniel Cattanach, and other staff star as Moanie Ranger and the Dark Lord.

It was approved by Gillian Bishop, the council's chief executive, leader Joe Milburn and deputy leader Margaret Jackson.

Mr Fardon, director of communities and partnership, said the money for it had come out of the internal public relations budget.

Seven hundred and fifty copies were printed.

Mr Fardon said: “Whenever we launch the corporate improvement plan, the staff get a copy. One time it was on memory sticks.

“I think the comic has worked because it’s got people talking about the plan.”

But Labour group leader Alan Smith criticised the comic as inappropriate and ridiculous.

“I wasn’t aware of this until I spotted it on a member of staff’s desk, and I don’t think any other councillor was either. It’s highly inappropriate when people’s jobs are under review. This council moans that it has not enough money and then prints a comic. It’s ridiculous.

“If the staff who are supposed to deliver this plan need a comic to understand it, I don’t hold out much hope for members of the public to understand the plan.”

An Allerdale council spokesman said: “Copies were given out to staff as an innovative way of communicating with them.

“The cost works out at £1.99 per copy. Funding came from existing resources and the project was not given any additional budget.

“Members of staff even acted as models for the photo shoot to keep costs down and add to the inclusiveness of the document.

“Any organisation would argue that keeping staff informed is not a waste of money.

“Allerdale council has won several awards for its communications and the council is seen as displaying best practice in this field.”

He added that the USB memory sticks, given to staff in 2006 cost the authority £4,182 and 2007’s launch, where staff members could win a hamper, cost £640.

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