London councils restructure comms in preparations for budget cuts

Councils across London are restructuring their comms units as they struggle to deal with swingeing cuts.

London: authorities considering mergers
London: authorities considering mergers

Councillors from Wandsworth and Hammersmith & Fulham are considering a 'co-operation agreement' that would see joint comms management across the two authorities, as part of steps to save £120m over three years.

If the Wandsworth/Hammersmith & Fulham deal is agreed at the end of the month, Hammersmith & Fulham's assistant director for comms & policy Simon Jones and corporate comms manager Louise Raisey will start working in Wandsworth for a total of four days a week from 1 April.

Jones said there would be no redundancies as part of the shake-up, but 'it allows us to reduce duplication and share best practice across two authorities - for example, by having joint campaigns'.

Westminster City Council is also in the middle of discussions around shared comms services with Southwark Council. It is expected that a proposal will go before Southwark's Cabinet on 25 January.

Meanwhile, Camden Council is undergoing a fundamental restructure of its comms function, overseen by head of comms Paul Inglefield. He revealed that the restructure was aimed at 'rationalising the service and making savings', and said redundancies were a possible outcome.

At Hackney Council, the comms and consultation team is going through a voluntary redundancy process.

HOW I SEE IT

Luke Blair, Director, London Communications Agency

Although mergers have always been a way of life in the private sector, what is different about this particular downturn is that public spending pressures are forcing mergers in increasingly new areas of public service delivery.

As Westminster Council has shown, taking a private sector approach by franchising its comms services to other councils can work. It does require care, though, with excellent comms an integral part of any successful merger operation - even more so when the comms teams themselves are merging.

The mark of a true comms professional must surely be to successfully manage the message about merging.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in