IN-HOUSE SURVEY: Counting the cost - The public sector is feeling the pressure of underfunding and little e-government

Increasing pressure from central government has meant

communications has arguably never been higher on the average council

CEO's agenda. Last year's Local Government Act highlighted the need for

improved public consultation.



Also, the 'e-government agenda' requires that by 2005 all residents

should be able to carry out electronic business with councils.



Research has shown that while the commitment at the top level is there,

adequate funding is not universal.



A recent Local Government Association survey (PRWeek, 10 August) showed

that it is only in the London and metropolitan boroughs and county

councils where it is felt that commitment to PR is being backed up with

adequate funding.



E-government is far from on course. The Society of Information

Technology Management has found just one council, Tameside, capable of

achieving its highest grade.(PRWeek, 9 March).



Calls for extra help have not gone unheeded. The Department of

Transport, Local Government and the Regions aims to produce a toolkit to

help PROs in greatest need cope with the extra pressures.



So far Mori, which is carrying out research for the toolkit, has found

no correlation between team size and effectiveness, offering a warning

to chief executives who see more PROs as the best use of modest

funds.



MYRA BENSON, BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL



Birmingham City Council is a £3bn business, serving one million

citizens with 48,000 employees.



Day-to-day work includes production of regular publications such as the

council's fortnightly 400,000 print-run newspaper, and a monthly staff

magazine.



'We also logged around 7,000 media enquiries, sent out 1,500 proactive

press releases and generated around £380,000 of income and

sponsorship,' says head of communications and customer relations Myra

Benson.



'Campaigns in the past year have included the bid to bring the National

Stadium to Birmingham, publicising the Eastside regeneration initiative,

promotion of the consultative ballot on an elected mayor, raising

education targets and a major campaign on fostering and adoption,' she

adds.



The coming year will see a number of new campaigns, starting in the new

year with Making More of the City - a hearts and minds campaign to

celebrate the city's redevelopment while easing the frustration of the

necessary building and roadworks.



SIOBHAN CROZIER, TOWER HAMLETS BOROUGH COUNCIL



During the past year the communications function at Tower Hamlets has

undergone an intensive review and, as a result, a complete overhaul.



One of the results of this was the appointment of communications

director Siobhan Crozier in July of this year.



Within its boundaries Tower Hamlets is an area of extremes - great

wealth is mirrored by intense poverty - and the in-house team has to

deal with many audiences.



'The Canary Wharf development lies within the borough as does 40 per

cent of London's current commercial development,' she says. 'There's

also Brick Lane and the new Mile End Millennium Park, all of which shows

why from a communications perspective, Tower Hamlets needs to wear many

different hats.



'Because of the economic extremes that sit side-by-side here I think

that one of our biggest challenges is to develop ways to help spread

wealth throughout the borough.'



TONY MILLER, BRIGHTON AND HOVE CITY COUNCIL



For the in-house team at Brighton and Hove the biggest single

achievement of the year was undoubtedly the securing of city status.

However, if an outsider assumed that Tony Miller - the council's head of

communications - and his team would have worked on little else they

would have been totally mistaken. The past 12 months have also seen the

team embark on campaigns to promote environmental sustainability and

community diversity, a redesign of the council website, a mayoral

referendum, a royal visit and the Labour Party conference being held

amid heightened security.



The year ahead promises to be equally as challenging, as Miller

explains: 'We're really making use of the possibilities offered by new

media to develop new ways for local residents and visitors to access the

council and its services. Existing work that we've done in this field

has proved invaluable in helping us use communications to do more than

just inform and consult.



'Next year we're also getting involved in developing a new visual

identity, improving staff communications and the promotion of the refuse

and street cleaning contract that has just returned to council control

from the private sector,' he adds.



TOP 10 LONDON BOROUGH COUNCILS

Rank Council PR Population Population

head- per PR

count person

1 Corporation of London* 19 5,430 286

2 London Borough of Tower Hamlets 15 179,834 11,989

3 Westminster City Council 13 230,000 17,692

4 London Borough of Lewisham 13 242,500 18,654

5 London Borough of Greenwich 11 218,700 19,882

6 London Borough of Islington 9 174,500 19,389

7 London Borough of Southwark 9 235,000 26,111

8 London Borough of Brent 9 247,600 27,511

9 London Borough of Ealing 9 302,000 33,556

10 London Borough of Camden 8 192,000 24,000

*Includes the sparsely-populated City of London, which generates

disproportionate media interest.

TOP 10 METROPOLITAN DISTRICT COUNCILS

Rank Council PR Population Population

head- per PR

count person

1 Birmingham City Council 12 937,763 78,147

2 Sunderland City Council 10 292,300 29,230

3 Coventry City Council 10 304,400 30,440

4 Kirklees Metropolitan Council 10 390,868 39,087

5 Sheffield City Council 9 528,500 58,722

6 Newcastle City Council 8 273,300 34,163

7 Liverpool City Council 8 468,000 58,500

8 North Tyneside Metropol Boro Counc 6 193,600 32,267

9 Tameside Metropol Boro Council 6 221,000 36,833

10 Salford City Council 6 227,793 37,966

TOP 10 ENGLISH UNITARY AUTHORITIES

Rank Council PR Population Population

head- per PR

count person

1 Brighton and Hove Council 11.5 248,946 21,647

2 Southampton City Council 7 213,273 30,468

3 Leicester City Council 7 295,700 42,243

4 Bristol City Council 7 400,700 57,243

5 Isle of Wight Council 6 128,231 21,372

6 Portsmouth City Council 6 190,400 31,733

7 Milton Keynes Council 6 200,000 33,333

8 Derby City Council 6 235,826 39,304

9 East Riding of Yorkshire Council 6 312,800 52,133

10 Thurrock Borough Council 5.5 134,806 24,510

The tables rank London boroughs councils, metropolitan district councils

and English unitary authoritires by the number of staff working in their

PR/comms teams. This does not include anyone working in design, direct

marketing or advertising. Where they tie, councils are ranked by the

ratio between PROs and population.



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