Editorial: Local government strengthens PR

Unsurprisingly, most of the media coverage of the Government’s devolution plans has focused on its proposals for national assemblies in Scotland and Wales, and the terrifying prospect of a race between Ken Livingstone and Jeffrey Archer to become the first elected mayor of London.

Unsurprisingly, most of the media coverage of the Government’s

devolution plans has focused on its proposals for national assemblies in

Scotland and Wales, and the terrifying prospect of a race between Ken

Livingstone and Jeffrey Archer to become the first elected mayor of

London.



Less well documented has been the accompanying increase in

responsibilities across a broad sweep of local government activity.

These changes bring increased accountability to local authorities, which

are being asked to find ways of increasing turn-out at local elections

and measuring their own performance on providing services. This in turn

creates a need for greater PR input and guidance.



This trend was predicted in a Platform piece in these pages by Newport

County Borough Council chief executive Sandy Blair last October, in

which he urged both local government PR professionals and external

advisers to help authorities adapt to their new roles.



True to his prediction, we are now seeing a raft of new PR appointments

at local authorities. This week, for example, we learn that

Middlesborough Borough Council is seeking its first head of

communications (page 1), and last week’s issue carried news of a similar

post at West Sussex Council, as well as advertisements for PR positions

at two other local authorities.



Local government has sometimes been unfairly dismissed as a PR

backwater, but that image is changing. Just as the stature of in-house

PR professionals in the commercial sector has increased (to the point

where one consultant commented this week that many consultancies now

trail in their wake), so we may now be seeing a similar rise in the

fortunes of local government PR.



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