Public Sector: Councils back plan to reduce comms costs

Council PR chiefs have agreed that communications can play a key part in Communities Secretary John Denham's plan to reduce the cost of local services.

In a press statement this week, Denham said his department hoped to save more than £20bn over ten years. The plan builds on reports from 13 regional pilot schemes that looked into ways of ending duplication of services by different local public groups.

Comms chiefs have agreed that efficiencies can be found by sharing comms duties between councils, PCTs, police and other public sector groups.

London Borough of Hillingdon head of corporate comms David Holdstock said: 'It is probably going to be a series of steps to get there, but why not?'

While council services such as ICT systems can be completely integrated, Oxfordshire head of communications James Clark suggested comms could prove a tougher proposition.

He said: 'The savings are medium to long term, but the initial outlay is short term, so it might not look like the good idea it probably is.'

Clark also warned that combining comms teams could result in a loss of 'corporate memory' - background information on an organisation that is essential for a PR and media unit to do its job properly.

Brighton & Hove head of corporate comms John Shewell agreed that integration has an important role, but warned the biggest challenge was agreeing an approach.

He said: 'This can be addressed by doing three things: identifying what the place narrative is - or the "place brand" - then identifying what the place outcomes are through robust research and analysis that should support any communications activity, and agreeing an approach that unifies communications delivery.'

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