First we must improve PROs' understanding of the purdah period.
Purdah – the law governing communication that comes into force between the notice of an election and polling day – is grossly misunderstood. Subsequently PROs are unnecessarily censorious during purdah, stopping all campaigns for fear of being seen to be promoting a political message.
This results in a flurry of campaign activity after the elections – and it would be better if such activity was constant. PROs should check with their legal team and refer to the Local Government Information Unit for clarification.
One way in which councils can work together is by developing a single approach to press management on election night. This would tackle thorny issues such as determining access and how best to stop ballot papers being photographed.
The CIPR Local Government Group's theme this year is 'not taking local government for granted'. How better to begin than by looking at democracy itself? It is ironic that Britain is intervening overseas to create better democracies when our own is withering on the vine. We can all work harder to attract people to the polls on election day.