For months, campaigners opposed to the HS2 project have been wondering what the seven-strong media team at HS2 Ltd do all day, as there has always been a distinct lack of input from HS2 Ltd to the press and despite their social media policy saying that they update twitter during office hours, there have been no tweets from the quango since April 5th and their Facebook page has not been updated since March 30th. Following correspondence between HS2 Ltd and Independent Chiltern Councillor Seb Berry, we now have the answer to what HS2 Ltd do do, they monitor the twitter feeds of Stop HS2 Campaigners. During this Parliament, it is estimated that once ‘generous benefit packages’ have been included, the bill for this team will be over one million pounds.
Councillor Seb Berry had contacted HS2 Ltd regarding a community forum in his area, and was surprised that the response back stated that HS2 Ltd “Have noted your comments on Twitter on 16 April 2012”, eleven days after they had last sent a tweet. The email contained incorrect and misleading information, stating that the community forum meeting notes had been “circulated to all meeting attendees on 2 April 2012 via email”. Emails between Seb Berry and other attendees showed that only some of the attendees had got the notes.
Effectiveness of the social media policy of HS2 Ltd has been further questioned this weekend as whilst their website, http://www.hs2.org has been down since Saturday 21st April (still down as 12.23pm 23rd April), they have not even been able to produce a message apologising for this fact.
Seb Berry said;
“Tax payers will quite rightly be appalled that HS2 Ltd is wasting public money employing people to monitor Twitter and other social networks. There is already a tax payer funded HS2 spin operation – it’s called the Department for Transport. Yet the Secretary of State has given her blessing to HS2 Ltd spin doctors and now social media “advisors” costing hundreds of thousands of pounds per year. This is an outrageous waste of public money.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, said;
“Stop HS2 has long recognised the value of social media as a new way of interacting with other people. But this incident shows HS2 Ltd’s disgraceful use of social media to provide incorrect and misleading information in response to a tweet from a campaigner. It’s the worst type of state sponsored propaganda.
“Further, HS2 Ltd showed this weekend their inept use of social media. When we realised on Sunday morning that the HS2 Ltd website had crashed, people used Twitter to let them know, and have since found it was down on Saturday. But a day later, there is still no sign that anyone in HS2 Ltd or the Department for Transport had even noticed that their website was unavailable to the general public.”
“No wonder the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd are so quick to dismiss suggestions that new forms of technology are transforming the ways people work and the need for travel. By the time HS2 is supposed to open, the business leaders of tomorrow will be the people who have grown up with these types of technology. They will have an instinctive grasp of how to use these ways of communicating, an understanding that HS2 Ltd is sadly lacking.”
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;
“We have been trying to figure out what exactly the HS2 media team do all day as there is no overt sign of any work from them whatsoever most days. We now know that they somehow justify their bloated salaries by simply reading what we say all day. It is clear now why the DfT and HS2 Ltd don’t think that advances in IT will mean fewer people to travel, because they haven’t figured out how to use it yet. How an organisation like this can have its website down for two days and not say a dickie bird in this age is completely beyond us. Yet again, it is up the campaigners and volunteers to get the message out.”