Public Sector: Aiken: Localism Bill can raise profile of PR

The new Localism Bill could strengthen the importance of PR as a tool to engage local people, according to Westminster Council director of comms Alex Aiken.

In this week's exclusive column, he suggests the bill will place greater emphasis on comms, but only if local authorities understand their new responsibilities. He writes: 'Meeting the first challenge of new responsibilities means understanding the Government's plans to empower people, such as the potential for local referendums on any issue ... and requirements to publish all spending over £500.

'All these measures point to giving the public and pressure groups a more significant voice in the debate about the conduct of our local governments.

And these "online auditors" will be more vociferous critics - and potential advocates - than the soon-to-be disbanded Audit Commission.'

Aiken notes that heads of comms will face a monthly public performance challenge.He adds: 'The public relations response will have to involve much earlier publication of all data, internal comms that puts a premium on seeing the value for money argument in every decision and much stronger and regular communication with community leaders.'

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