Opinion: Shame on councils that shun LGA list

Trafford recently became the 200th authority to sign up to the Local Government Association's Reputation campaign. As this milestone was passed, the Government produced a report showing that 60 per cent of people are unhappy with the information provided by their local authority.

If we accept the premise of the Reputation project - that better information leads to higher satisfaction - we need to start naming and shaming the authorities that are letting the others down by not joining the drive to improve reputation.

A glance through the list on the LGA's website shows a roll of honour - from districts such as Adur to York City Council. But where are Somerset, Stoke, Newcastle upon Tyne and many others?

Building reputation is not just about joining the LGA's list, but it is important evidence and allows authorities to rate themselves as bronze, silver or gold for planning, implementing and evaluating communications work.

Only 50 have sent in submissions to assess their activities: it seems incredible that so few councils have sought to benchmark their performance. We cannot keep arguing that communicators have a ‘right' to sit at the top table unless we grasp the tools at our disposal to prove our worth.

The Audit Commission is currently overseeing the Best Value Performance Inspection survey of local authorities, with a million households in the UK being asked their opinion of services.

By early 2007 we will be able to see whether the Reputation project authorities score better or worse than those councils that have not yet joined. For those that have acted early to enhance reputation, it will make a powerful argument for greater corporate influence. For others, it may provide a wake-up call to improve our collective reputation. Otherwise, why should government grant us additional powers and freedoms?

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