PUBLIC SECT0R: LGC conference to debate public image of local govt

The LG Communications annual conference kicked off this week with a call to improve the image of local government across Britain.

The opening address at the conference, hosted by Devon County Council, saw LGC vice-chair Richard Scott call for open debate among council PROs on how the public sector's poor public perception could be improved.

Scott drew a parallel between the diminished status of other public sector workers and the image problems facing local government: 'If you go back 30 or 40 years, teachers were widely respected throughout the community.

It's that erosion of the public sector ethos that we are seeing,' he said.

'We ourselves as practitioners have to hold a debate on what the standing of local government is and how it can be improved,' he added.

The conference, taking place from Wednesday to Friday this week, is based around the issue, following on from measures in the Local Government White Paper aimed at addressing individual council's relations with residents.

Speakers include Phil Ford, a scriptwriter on Coronation Street and Footballer's Wives.

LGC secretary Michael Baker admitted there was a need to 'give the local government brand a facelift'. He added that the image of local government itself remains 'the unspoken issue' of council comms.

'The issue is about how the customer sees councils and the appetite and image of the local government brand. It is not just a matter for individual authorities and it translates into big problems with recruitment and retention, particularly when there is already an ageing workforce in this sector,' he warned.

Baker suggested that measures contained in the Local Government White Paper would not affect the image of local government. 'It's fine de-centralising and devolving responsibility and freedom to local government, but if we're not seen as having a strong and vibrant brand then it's very hard to be accepted by the public,' he said.

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