Central government under fire while councils gain public support

The public believes that the media are coming down more harshly on central government but easing up on local councils, a survey has revealed.

Cutbacks: Eric Pickles oversaw the local government finance settlement for councils (Rex Features)
Cutbacks: Eric Pickles oversaw the local government finance settlement for councils (Rex Features)

The research, conducted by LGinsight/Populus, showed that between June 2011 and May 2012, the number of people who thought councils were receiving positive coverage more than doubled, to 19 per cent. It also showed the general level of satisfaction with councils had remained steady, with residents feeling they were being consulted over decisions more often.

However, the number of people who believed that media coverage of central government was negative crept up two per cent during the same period, to 60 per cent.

Neil Wholey, head of research at LGinsight, said the figures showed that councils had successfully distanced themselves from central government decisions.

Acknowledging that work still had to be done when it came to media perception of councils, Wholey pointed to the way they had portrayed government cutbacks, led by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, as being a possible reason behind the improvement.

'During the past year what has probably happened is that due to the budget cuts and reductions in funding from the Government all councils have been reviewing how they deliver services,' he said.

'They have been doing this by engaging with the public and media by highlighting the services they still provide.'

HOW I SEE IT

Charlie Vavasour, MD, Quantum PR

Public compassion for local government is on the increase.

The sector is regarded as a victim of Westminster austerity, which, coupled with effective campaigns to explain the cuts, has resulted in the media viewing it far more positively than central government.

More positive media coverage will be down to a number of factors.

With smaller budgets, spending on perceived extravagant services (and the ensuing public controversy) has been pegged back.

For media outlets that are themselves losing staff, it is much easier to use positive PR issued by councils than investigate potentially more negative stories.

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