A TAXPAYER-funded partnership of businesses, councils and universities is spending tens of thousands of pounds on a public relations agency.

Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) this week said it had appointed Tala to ‘raise the profile’ of its work.

It has also appointed Rob Panting, former marketing business partner at Activate Learning, as its new communications executive.

Mr Panting will direct Tala, the LEP said in a statement. But the organisation refused to reveal how much it was paying either him or Tala.

However, tender documents seen by the Oxford Mail show it value the communications work as having a ‘maximum value of £25,000’.

Yesterday OxLEP spokesman Andrew Baud, of Tala, said his company was appointed ‘following an open and competitive tender’. He added: “Tala’s retainer fee benchmarks very favourably with the public relations industry average, as does [Mr Panting’s] in-house appointment. As an Oxfordshire business, Tala’s appointment also supports OxLEP’s key priority of promoting business growth in the county.”