LG Comms delivers PR warning over legislation

New legislation is putting increasing pressure on public service communications and will require ‘significant’ resources, trade body LG Comms warned this week.

LG issued the wake-up call partly in response to the Disability Act and Race Relations Act, which require councils to communicate to all sections of their communities.

However, the forthcoming Freedom of Information Act, which comes into force in January 2005, has generated the most concern.

The legislation will require councils and other bodies to make public a wide range of documents if asked for them, including email and other correspondence about policy decisions.

LG has urged public sector communicators to begin their preparations for the Act as soon as possible.

However, it is not known how the public will respond to their extended powers or whether councils will be overwhelmed with requests to see documents.

LG executive member and Westminster City Council head of communications Alex Aiken recommended public bodies audit existing documents to determine their volume before people ask for them.

‘The view that most of us take is that it is best to get these documents out early, such as to libraries or websites, rather than the public asking to see documents and the local authorities not having the procedures in place to meet the requests,’ Aiken said.

‘How you put in place procedures to get them to the public is something local authorities need to be ready for,’ he added.

LG, whose general secretary is Kevin Wilson, decided to work with its member bodies on the issue at its first executive meeting of the year, held last week at Westminster City Hall.

The executive agreed to launch a campaign to increase its membership and to consider encouraging membership of comms staff from local government partner organisations such as police, fire and health services.

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