The Comprehensive Spending Review was the top subject for discussion both on and offstage at the conference and awards held in Brighton last week.
But there was concern as this year's conference attracted just 150 people - and the awards ceremony saw numbers dwindle to 120 - as public sector comms teams find it harder than ever to justify such events to their paymasters.
Northamptonshire won comms team of the year, plus awards for internal comms and digital excellence.
Faye Scadden, Northamptonshire head of comms and marketing, said: 'We were really determined to win. The whole team started working in different areas to improve their skills.'
Other winners included Gateshead Council for media relations excellence, City of Edinburgh for hard-to-reach comms and Gloucester County Council for crisis comms.
Stockport Metropolitan District Council won the campaign of the year award for its Active Stockport Strides Ahead campaign, launched to tackle the rising cost of obesity in the area.
The young communicator of the year award went to London Borough of Hackney interim media manager Emma Britton.
The Creative Savings award went to all five county and district Buckinghamshire councils for their joint magazine.
However, there was no overall winner in the consultation category, as none of the entries were deemed to be of a high enough standard.