Public Sector: Single comms boss for Sutton services

The London Borough of Sutton is aiming to put in place a single unified comms team across council, police, healthcare and voluntary groups within a year.

Westminster City Council's comms team has been overseeing comms at the council since February and is co-ordinating the integration of comms teams, starting with police and council.

Westminster senior comms manager Cormac Smith said that the aim was to have one head of comms within a year.

Smith, who is also an executive member of LG Communications, said: 'Our strategy is to do it step by step like links in a chain. I very much see this as a blueprint for the future of local area comms.'

Currently the borough's police comms officers work at the council's offices for a number of days each week, handling joint campaigns.

Smith expects Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust to follow suit in the next financial year along with voluntary sector organisations such as Age Concern and Citizens Advice.

Warren Shadbolt, head of the Safer Sutton Partnership (a joint council and Metropolitan Police Service grouping), said: 'It's perfectly possible that we will have one team in a year, provided practicalities are taken into account.'

The news follows reports that the Audit Commission's Comprehensive Area Assessment will be looking at councils working with partners to improve local quality of life.

Haringey head of comms and chair of CIPR local public services Mike Browne commented on the plans: 'While partnership working is great when things are going well, arrangements need to be put in place to ensure that one team can comfortably represent the differing views of partners when in conflict.

'If one head of comms is accountable to all of the partners for managing their debates with each other in public, it could be a challenging role to say the least,' he added.

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