The code, drawn up by the Department for Communities and Local Government, proposes reducing newsletters to quarterlies and banning the use of public affairs consultants. It is currently out to consultation.
The CIPR Local Public Services Group’s formal response to the code states that ‘there is a danger that the code as consulted upon loses sight of the duty to inform residents in this way, which could result in councils becoming more remote from their electorate’.
The body also suggests that the proposals to improve even-handedness would act to ‘disengage the public from civic involvement’.
The CIPR and LGComms have both called for the abolition of councils’ obligation to advertise planning notices, which costs the average council £105,000 a year, with the CIPR dubbing it an ‘anachronism that contradicts the value for money agenda of central and local Government’.
In its submission, the Local Government Association criticises the proposal to cut council publications to four a year, with the LGA suggesting that to do so could prove more expensive for councils, as it will lead to the printing of more leaflets.
The LGA ends its submission by stating that the proposed code ‘would place severe restrictions on the ability of local authorities to communicate with their residents about vital public services’.
Conversely, the Newspaper Society’s response to the proposed code has endorsed Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’ assessment of the ‘damaging effect’ of council publications and calls for the draft code to be revised to prevent local authorities getting around the restrictions by using third parties.