Harrow Council in £3m hunt for comms support over "bad PR" from cuts

Harrow Council has issued a tender for internal and external comms services as it seeks to weather £75m of cuts over the next five years.

Harrow: Council needs to make significant cuts
Harrow: Council needs to make significant cuts

The tender for a brief covering public and media relations, publications and service marketing will be for a term of three years and ten months, with an option to extend for another four years.

The value of the contract over the initial period, starting on 1 April 2015, is estimated at £3m.

Harrow Council divisional director of resources Alex Dewsnap said the agency appointed would be tasked with providing media relations and campaigns support amid major cuts to council services, looking at new ways of driving the council’s messages to local residents.

"The contractor needs to maintain the core communications function in the context of the council needing to make significant savings, and manage the bad PR around the difficult decisions we need to make."

Dewsnap said the council had an operational budget of £141m, and had to save £75m, with cuts of £25m earmarked for next year. The council has already made £60m of cuts over the past four years.

Dewsnap said the council was not looking solely for public sector specialists, but wanted a contractor that could offer a holistic service and understood the political environment.

He said the council would be looking to slim down its spend on comms over the course of the contract, reducing the budget each year.

The scope of the work will include media relations and strategic communication, corporate marketing, service marketing, public relations, internal communication and consultation.

The tender document states that the agency will be tasked with delivering "innovative models to achieve reduction of costs to the authority" while "enhancing the communications experience to the authority’s customers and stakeholders", and that the council will require "robust KPIs to that effect".

Harrow has outsourced comms since 2008 and it is currently handled by Westminster City Council.

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