The local authorities being visited are Lancaster City Council, the London Borough of Enfield, Barnsley Metropolitan Council, Rother District Council, Nottinghamshire County Council and Herefordshire County Council.
These are key councils for the project as their ‘improving’ tag has entilted them to a raft of consultancy advice to bolster communications efforts. MORI’s findings are set to provide the first real indicator as to whether this consultation has worked in terms of external PR.
MORI associate director Ashley Ames hinted that the survey’s commissioners – the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Audit Commission, the Improvement and Development Agency and the Local Government Association – do not expect all councils to have improved. He added: ‘The big question will be: “Have perceptions improved?”’
The councils have used the consultants to help draw up strategies, and as a result councils, such as Lancaster, have launched residents’ magazines and other initiatives.
Lancaster’s assistant communications manager Elaine Stoker added that the council relaunched its website this year and developed a single brand for the authority.
But some authorities were hampered by other problems. Enfield council, for example, only appointed a permanent head of comms, Kate Robertson, three months ago, after a 12-month gap. Robertson admitted: ‘Improving communications will take time.’
MORI will use face-to-face interviews with 500 randomly selected households and the results will be compared to a previous survey, conducted before the project launched (PRWeek, 21 June 2002).