Writing exclusively for PRWeek, Westminster City Council director of comms Alex Aiken suggests that the 'inevitable reductions' to comms spend resulting from the Comprehensive Spending Review will mean a 'fundamental rethink' for councils.
He said: 'The average size of a comms team in local authorities is about ten staff and a budget of £1m.
'That average is likely to reduce by about a third, to about six staff and under £700,000 during the next three years.'
The warning to council comms teams across the UK comes as Brighton & Hove City Council has revealed that it plans to make comms savings of more than £1m over the next two years, after an audit of comms across the council.
The council's head of comms John Shewell said: 'We're looking at everything. It's very much a root and branch treatment of comms. The idea is to enable us to get to a figure of about £400,000 to £500,000 savings a year.'
In his column, Aiken goes on to call for local authorities to unify council comms with other areas.
Meanwhile, the CIPR is launching a campaign to help public sector PROs respond to the ongoing cuts.
HOW I SEE IT
Alex Aiken, Director of comms, Westminster City Council
Councils should take the opportunity to unify comms, consultation and potentially customer service functions. We know the public perception of the ability to influence the authority's decisions and the standard of customer service determine reputation, so move these teams together to form a unit to properly manage reputation. Staffordshire is doing this, saving money and improving communication.
Share campaigns, publications and other activity with other public services.
There should be joint health and community reassurance campaigns in every locality.
Blackburn is a leading authority in this regard and a model for the future.