When former Labour Party spin doctor Matthew Finnegan was appointed Salford Council's Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing in August last year, it drew criticism from both the staff trade union and opposition councillors, not least because the post was `politically restricted'.
Indeed the official job description stated "This post is a politically restricted post as defined by the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. In broad terms this precludes the person appointed from…being an officer of a political party/canvassing on behalf of a political party/speaking or writing in public on matters which are subject to political controversy…"
It added that the post holder should also ensure "probity in all communications".
While the definition of `probity' is open to interpretation (`integrity' Oxford English Dictionary), the Salford Star has seen an email from Matt Finnegan to local media containing a press release on behalf of a Labour Party candidate who hopes to stand at the next General Election.
As Hazel Blears prepares to retire as MP for Salford and Eccles, there's a huge fight amongst half a dozen female only candidates within the Labour Party to take over her safe seat**.
The Salford Star has seen an email sent by Finnegan to the Manchester Evening News including a press release on behalf of one of the candidates – Rebecca Long-Bailey – who is being backed by Salford City Mayor, Ian Stewart and a number of other of Salford's Assistant Mayors.
The press release contained quotes and other information which was subsequently published by the newspaper.
While the email was sent from Finnegan's personal email account, rather than an official Salford Council address, it does raise questions as to whether the Mayor's spin doctor has, indeed, broken the terms of his `politically restricted' employment.
Since Matthew Finnegan was originally employed by Salford Council, first as a freelance PR and later as the £65,000 a year Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing, he has been a controversial figure. The Salford Star has, at the moment, an official complaint about Finnegan's unprofessional conduct being investigated by Salford Council (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Meanwhile, when Finnegan was first appointed to his `politically restricted' post, Salford's Conservative opposition leader Karen Garrido stood up at a full meeting of Salford City Council and said she would be "keeping an eye" on the new spin doctor for political activity on behalf of the Labour Party…
The Salford Star asked Matt Finnegan for a comment but Salford Council's `head of communications' hasn't responded.
See also previous related Salford Star articles…
* Salford Council Political Spin Doctor Horror – click here
* Salford Council Assistant Director for Communications – click here
** There are six candidates hoping to get the Labour Party nomination for the Salford and Eccles constituency seat… Rebecca Long-Bailey, Sue Pugh, Sarah Brookes, Sara Hyde, Angela Pober and Sophie Taylor.
The Salford Star has sent each of the candidates a short questionnaire and we will publish the responses shortly.