CAMPAIGNS: Fairer council funding after TACFIG push - Public Sector PR

Client: Town and Country Finance Issues Group (TACFIG) PR Team: Waverley Borough Council in-house, with LLM Communications Campaign: A Fair Deal for Town and Country Councils Timescale: July 1998-February 2003 Budget: £300,000 over five years

Five years ago, the government called for 'new thinking' on the way councils were funded. In response, 16 councils set up a new group - TACFIG - within the Local Government Association to try to get a better deal for 'shire' districts - those councils with both small urban centres and rural areas. Under the existing system, these councils lost out on the funding available to purely rural and purely urban councils.

Objectives

To achieve reform of the government grant system so shire district councils would be funded more fairly.

Strategy and Plan

TACFIG's strategy from the start was to play on its political advantage of representing marginal seats in middle England. The founding councils commissioned research to find out which shire districts were disadvantaged by the grant system, and targeted councils that would benefit from a new approach. More than 60 councils joined the group.

TACFIG carried out further research into how grant reform could be based more closely on the needs and priorities of local communities in town and country councils, and developed a proposal. This included a formula based on number of residents, and an equal annual grant to cover the fixed costs of being in business.

The case was made through a number of tactics. The group produced a publication, A Fair Deal for Town and Country Councils, which highlighted the problem and offered a solution. This was sent to press, MPs and other stakeholders.

Decision makers and influencers were lobbied through one-to-one meetings, round-table seminars and fringe meetings at local government and party conferences. An All Party Town and Country Group was set up in 1999 with the support of over 95 MPs. Its parliamentary activity included adjournment debates, government debates, Early Day Motions and Parliamentary Questions.

TACFIG responded to relevant government consultations, and carried out sustained national and regional press activity. Local businesses and community organisations within TACFIG councils were also targeted for support.

Measurement and Evaluation

Press coverage throughout the five-year campaign highlighted the case for shire districts, including TACFIG taking part in the BBC's On the Record, and a photo story in The Independent.

Results

The new central government finance system for local authorities was announced in December 2002 with final details confirmed in February 2003.

The new system includes TACFIG's proposal for the number of residents to be taken into account, and there is no longer a negative impact on shire districts.

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