In particular the conclusions of the Lyons Review with its promise of a supplementary business rate and greater local powers offers tangible reward for local government, tempered by the knowledge that implementation is a prize to be won after the next general election.
Over the past five years the localism agenda has given hope to councils that their aspiration to build vibrant communities will be met. But any new government will have new ambitions and fresh focus. The budget did demonstrate that one hallmark of the new administration will be a demand for greater efficiency; to do ‘more for less’.
Corporate services, such as communications, will be an easy target for superficial efficiency gains. In response, heads of communications must deploy public relations that engages local MPs as a conduit to government and offers national case studies of effective service provision. The twin challenge of demands for efficiency and the drive of a new government means that local leaders, chief executives and their head of communications need to develop a clear local strategy for lobbying government and contribute to the Local Government Association’s national campaign. In turn the LGA needs to move from promoting the mechanics of the reputation campaign to providing the business case for efficient communications.
This means that local authorities need clear communications plans that predict, promote, partner and prevent. They need to plan ahead and identify opportunities and threats. They must promote the work they do and involve and brief MPs, ministers and shadow ministers about projects.
As we approach the general election local government needs to provide brilliant local examples of best practice and deliver great national lobbying to enhance powers and protect resources. In this sense the expected change of Prime Minister this summer marks the start of the general election lobbying campaign for local authorities as much as it does for Brown, Campbell and Cameron.
Alex Aiken is Head of Communications for Westminster Council