Senior figures in public sector PR conducted a bout of soul-searching as they gathered in Leeds for last week's LGcommunications' annual conference - days after the Government's announcement of £6.25bn cuts.
Welsh Assembly Government director of communications Sara Moseley accused public sector communicators of failing to recognise the age of austerity about to hit them.
She said: 'There are lots of people who are absurdly optimistic about the changes ahead. I don't think it's just the public who have been in denial - we've been in denial as well.'
Moseley told the assembled comms directors they would have to give up their 'fiefdoms and pet projects'.
Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) director of comms George Eykyn told delegates to focus on collaboration and return on investment as they face the challenges.
He said: 'Ministers want to see more joined-up working and pooling of resources ...
Ministers are not going to approve any campaign without a robust projection that will show it will more than pay for itself in the value it brings.'
He also announced plans for a professional development programme that would allow for many more secondments between central and local Government and charities.
'To get to the top in Whitehall comms, you need different strings to your bow,' he said.
We need to allow fluidity between departments for this to happen. Heads of news can ascend rapidly then hit a ceiling unless they switch disciplines.'
Leeds City Council leader Richard Brett seconded the call for greater collaboration: 'You will need to make sure you're working alongside your police force, primary care trusts and local faith groups.'