Media interest “legitimate” - Chamber boss

SUFFOLK: Media interest in the salary and other expenditure surrounding council chief executive Andrea Hill is “legitimate”, the president of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said today.

But Dr Peter Funnell said he was concerned that sometimes issues surrounding Mrs Hill were drowning out an important debate about the future of public services in the county – and the council’s divestment proposals.

After this week’s Suffolk Chamber meeting which was addressed by Mrs Hill, Dr Funnell said he hoped people would “focus on services rather than personality.”

He described Mrs Hill as hard working and said: “The issue is with the media.”

However speaking to The Evening Star Dr Funnell said he understood the interest in Mrs Hill’s salary and the fact the council had spent �12,000 on professional coaching and �1,400 on photography described as “Andrea Hill photos” in an FoI response.

The Chamber’s view was that these were a matter for the chief executive and her employer.

However Dr Funnell added: “I think they are quite legitimate in the public domain and are subject to various views. There is not a chamber view on that per se.

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“What we are keen to ensure is that we don’t miss the opportunities, and indeed the challenges, that are out there at the moment.”

Dr Funnell is president of the chamber this year and said there were some real opportunities in Suffolk as the county pursues its policy of divestment.

The meeting had been very useful for members to find out how the council was hoping to change the way public services are delivered in the county.

The chamber is funded by its members and by project work, some of which is funded by the county and district councils across Suffolk.

It is also supported by sponsors – this week’s lunch was partly sponsored by Business Link.

Dr Funnell said the project work was contracted and could be viewed as a commercial activity. The chamber is a “private sector” organisation although some of the projects it is contracted to complete may be commissioned by public sector bodies including the county council.

n Is the media right to shine a spotlight on the salaries and public spending on senior officials? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

n On BBC news programme Look East yesterday, it was claimed Mrs Hill received a threat since her salary and spending of public money has been made public.

Suffolk Police today confirmed that there had been a report of a threat made to Mrs Hill and she has been given some advice over this.

A Suffolk Police spokesman said: “We can confirm that we have received a report of threats made towards Andrea Hill and these have been investigated. We have liaised with Mrs Hill and offered her the necessary support and guidance as well as speaking to the individual who reported it to us.”