One third of councils to be hit by PR crisis

A third of all local councils will struggle to meet tough central

government directives on PR due to lack of investment, it was claimed

this week.

Julie Hollings, the Society of County and Unitary Public Relations

Officers chairman, said councils without full-time PR support would

struggle to cope with a raft of central government rulings aimed at

improving communication and consultation with their communities.

These include the Local Government Act 2000, which highlights the

importance of communication in community planning. Also, the 'e-govt

agenda' requiring that all residents must be able to carry out

electronic business with councils, such as paying council tax.

Hollings spoke out after confirmation by the Local Government

Association that a third of the UK's 410 councils were without even a

single dedicated PR professional.

She said: 'This is a problem for the smaller councils in the way they

are able to carry out these aspects of modernisation. Larger PR teams

and professional full-time PROs communicate better.'

The LGA this week completed its first full survey of local authority PR

functions, and found that 132 of the 410 authorities in the UK have no

dedicated PRO.

Many of those without are smaller district councils where PR is carried

out as a second remit of staff in other units.

In the last four years there has been a 39 per cent increase in the

number of councils with at least one full-time PRO, with the total

rising from 200 in 1997 to 278 now.

The LGA research shows that while most councils view communication with

the media and the community as a priority, there is often a lack of

communication within their own structures.

More than half of council PR teams show neither councillors nor

management their regular monitoring and evaluation reports on media


Leader, p10.

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