Profile: Deirdre Colledge, London Borough of Camden - Executive link to the people/Deirdre Colledge asserts herself as Camden Council’s bridge to its public

Deirdre Colledge’s new role at the London Borough of Camden is not about press releases, posters and publicity, she asserts. The assistant chief executive of communications’ post which she is about to take up (PR Week, 2 April) at the high profile London council is one of the most senior jobs in local government PR, with a seat on the executive board, a budget in excess of pounds 3 million, responsibility for three departments and a staff of 47.

Deirdre Colledge’s new role at the London Borough of Camden is not

about press releases, posters and publicity, she asserts. The assistant

chief executive of communications’ post which she is about to take up

(PR Week, 2 April) at the high profile London council is one of the most

senior jobs in local government PR, with a seat on the executive board,

a budget in excess of pounds 3 million, responsibility for three

departments and a staff of 47.



Colledge’s predecessors have gone on to greater glory. Julia Simpson

left the post last May to become David Blunkett’s official spokesperson

at the Department for Education and Employment. Simpson’s predecessor,

Lorraine Langham, became an executive director at Hackney council, with

responsibility for general management areas including regeneration as

well as communications.



Colledge describes the post as being about ’establishing a link between

the council and local people, engaging and involving them in local

government’.



At a strategic level, it will involve looking ahead to the new

challenges that local government will be facing - anticipating them and

seeing how the council measures up, then formulating policies towards

them. She will also manage communications, including a publications

unit, an internal advertising agency, the press office and, rather

bizarrely, the registrar of births, deaths and marriages.



Colledge is clearly excited by the move. ’It is probably the best job in

local government,’ she enthuses. ’Camden has it all, it is hip,

go-getting, ambitious, well respected and well resourced.’



Colledge is leaving the Royal Borough of Kingston after two years

because the authority has axed her post as part of a sweeping round of

cuts. The PR function was always a political hot potato at the Surrey

council, opposed by both Labour and Conservative councillors. Not that

Colledge isn’t capable of fighting her ground. As her friend and

colleague on the IPR’s local government group committee, Fran

Collingham, who is also policy and communications manager at Redditch

Borough Council, says: ’She is not afraid of anyone.



Deirdre is adept at cutting through the red tape that can turn

decision-making in local government into treacle. She is very focused on

the end result and she delivers.’



Colledge can afford to be sanguine about her departure from Kingston,

given the heights to which she is rising. The 38-year-old mother of

three says that ’it is a brilliant time to be in local government’

thanks to Tony Blair’s drive to modernise council management and

operations and to make local authorities more accountable to the

communities they serve.



’It is a complete shift from declaring that here are the services we

offer to asking what services the public would like,’ she says. ’Getting

people involved is a really big challenge. They tend not to want to know

(about what happens in local government) until things go wrong. We have

to excite people, turn them on to what is happening and the role they

can play.



That’s hard. Who is going to give up EastEnders to go to a teach-in on

community planning?’



Local politics are in Colledge’s blood: her aunt combined a job at the

(then) Department of Education with trade union activism and her brother

worked for the GLC. However, she herself is a recent recruit, having

left the private sector just four years ago. Before joining Redditch

Borough Council as marketing and PR manager, she worked as Lloyds

Register Quality Insurance’s PR manager for a year, and before that,

spent 15 years at Shell, working in both PR and clerical roles.



Colledge juggles her work with a smile. Friends remark on how positive

she is and much of her conversation comes with an unspoken ’can do’

emphasis.



She laughingly recounts the only way to combine all-night meetings and

breastfeeding. ’What can you do when you know you are going to be in a

meeting until 2am and you are still feeding? My husband brought the baby

in, I slipped out, fed her, then went back in and resumed the meeting,’

she says. The fate of Camden’s PR, one feels, is in good hands.



HIGHLIGHTS

1995

Marketing and PR manager, Redditch Borough Council

1997

Head of communications, Royal Borough of Kingston

1999

Assistant chief executive of communications, London Borough of Camden



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