The devolution agenda calls for a new approach to public sector comms and lobbying

Politics is changing, which means that the way we think about and "do" public affairs needs to change, too.

The coming elections on 4th May herald a new era for public sector comms and lobbying, argues Gill Morris
The coming elections on 4th May herald a new era for public sector comms and lobbying, argues Gill Morris

Traditional PR campaigns and routes to influence policy that focus on Westminster and Whitehall alone will not hit the mark in the new post-truth, Brexit world.

On 5 May there will be six new Metro Mayors elected with big ambitions and the power to promote new and kinder politics.

Also see: Liverpool City Region – reaching young voters and explaining the difference between elected and unelected mayors

The rocky road to a Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine have left some far behind and others arguing about which way to turn, but my view is that English devolution is the solution and a nettle which needs to be grasped.

In the months and years ahead, more city regions and combined authority areas will embrace the devo opportunity and follow suit.

Old differences about geography and governance will dissipate as our new Metro Mayors prove what they can do and start to deliver real change on the ground.

Now more than ever we need to rebalance our economy, achieve wealth, generate skills, secure infrastructure investment, fight for greater connectivity and realise inclusive growth in the areas outside the M25 bubble.

Now is the time for the public sector to rethink their communications approach.

In the future, communications and engagement will need to stop being London-centric and led by Westminster politics.

Rather, it is time for public bodies and local authorities to change the lens and transcend their boundaries.

There should be a new era of collaboration and cooperation where Metro Mayors, civic and business leaders, public and private partners and the voluntary sector work together to effect real change, which is in tune with what people want.

Devolution provides for a new way of working with Westminster and the reality is that Andy Burnham, if elected as Greater Manchester Metro Mayor, will have for more power and influence than an MP.

There are some Devo-sceptics who say Metro Mayors don’t have sufficient powers, money or remit to make a difference to the communities they serve.

The same was said when Ken Livingstone was elected the first London Mayor and no one now questions the huge influence possessed by Sadiq Khan or questions his power and influence.

New and non-traditional PR and lobbying approaches are now needed to reap the benefits of devolved power outside London and influence the shape of things to come.

This is not a time for local authority leaders to compete against each other for finite resources, but a time to collaborate and work in partnership on the big picture issues.

Imagine a pan-Northern voice for better, faster, smarter transport across the North backed by private and public sector leaders and led by our northern Metro Mayors?

This would be a game-changer in terms of rebalancing the economy and everyone wins.

It is time to lead the way and not be led. It is time to stem complacency and control by Westminster, time to think outside the box and time to realise Britain’s full potential outside Europe.

Gill Morris is chief executive of DevoConnect

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