Newcastle reviews PR in wake of CPA assessment

Newcastle Upon Tyne City Council has announced a root and branch review of its PR function after a warning from the Audit Commission that improvements are badly needed.

The commission’s latest Comprehensive Performance Assessment found that although the council’s services were ‘good’ overall, ‘the council needed to agree and communicate a clear vision and set of priorities’, especially following a change in political control from Labour to the Liberal Democrats last June.

Newcastle media relations manager Andrew McKegney said: ‘The review relates to how communication and marketing takes place across the council and how it can be joined up to be more corporate.’

He said a communications champion group, involving officers from across the council, had been set up to assist with the review.

The overhaul comes in the wake of the exit of the council’s head of communications Lynda Fothergill, but is not linked. Fothergill left this week to join neighbouring South Tyneside Council as head of corporate communications (PRWeek, 10 December 2004).

Newcastle’s 17-strong PR team will be led jointly by McKegney and corporate communications and marketing manager Jane Byrne while the review occurs.

A crucial task over the coming months will be around the regeneration in the West End of the city.

Newcastle recently hired communications agency Robson Brown, and McKegney stressed that its role will be to assist the communications team ‘as and when necessary’. The firm is not directly involved in the review.

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