Ealing Paid £1.4 million for Image Consultants

Massive Contract Awarded to Promote Brand of 'Response Programme'

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Protests prompts U-Turn on cuts but Ealing Council to press on with controversial "Response Programme"

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Ealing Council's controversial Response Programme looks set to cause an even greater storm of protest following startling revelations about the way money is being spent on the project. It has emerged that image consultants have been paid a seven figure sum to sell the concept of 'Making a World of Difference' to Council Employees.

A recent report in the Times newspaper related that a company called Live Communications had been engaged by the Council. Their contact involved the creation of an "experiential" centre in Park Royal, where sound and video images are used to demonstrate how senior managers should explain the way the programme will work.

What the report didn't mention was that the total cost of this internal marketing exercise was over £1.4 million. It was originally budgeted to cost £1.5 million but Ealing Council negotiated to get a reduction of £75,000.

Live Communications was founded by Mike Lockett and is positioned as a expert in the new concept of 'experiential marketing'. Until recently the company had mainly been involved in the organisation of major events. Many of the staff have worked for British Airways in the past.

Mike Lockett previously found himself at the centre of the row that erupted over who should carry the can for the problems that plagued the Millennium Dome's launch party, which he helped to organise. Many VIP guests, including the editors of The Times and the Independent and the, then, new Director General of the BBC Greg Dyke, were forced to queue for three hours at Stratford tube station. Several commentators believe this sparked the stream of bad press for the Dome which followed. Live Communications managed to survive this debacle and in their latest financial year recorded revenues of £8.5 million.

Many residents are concerned that expenses relating to the £50 million Response Programme have resulted in cuts. As well as reducing funding to many local voluntary groups, Ealing has increased Meals on Wheels prices and started charging for black refuse bags. Last month saw angry demonstrations by council staff, unions and members of the local community against the Council's extensive programme of budget and job cuts. 

The demonstrations culminated in a mass lobby of the cabinet meeting responsible for setting the budget. Councillors were presented with a 1,000 signature petition collected by the local branches of Mencap and Alzheimer's Concern which opposed new charges for day services for the elderly and disabled. Despite the protests Ealing Council has reiterated its commitment to implement the 'Response Programme' which it says will result in substantial improvements in service quality and long term savings.

March 31, 2004