Public Sector: Flying the flag for local govt PR

Last week our chairman, Sir Simon Milton, unveiled the new campaign that will be the focus of the majority of the Local Government Association's work for the next 12 months.

The campaign, Putting People First, will focus our efforts on six key areas that councils across the country have told us are of concern in the coming year. We will be concentrating on putting forward solutions for diverse community cohesion, housing, care of the elderly, devolution of powers, global warming and demonstrating the efficiency and effectiveness of councils.

Local authorities carry out nearly 800 different activities on behalf of local residents, but not a lot of people know this. The campaign seeks to start bridging the gap between the perception that councils do little more than collect the bins and the reality that they have more impact than central government on people's day-to-day lives.

The hardest part is working out which of these hundreds of invaluable services we should promote above others. Single-issue campaign groups have a clear objective and can focus all their energies to this end. Councils, on the other hand, deliver such a myriad of crucial services that sometimes it is hard to sort out the campaigning wheat from high-quality chaff.

In the end we have applied five unscientific but proven key tests. Are the campaigns fresh, relevant and focused? Could the issues involved happen to me? Would I debate with friends about the issues down the Dog and Duck?

By drawing on the best of council work, and showing leadership where necessary, we will focus our external affairs activity around improving people's lives, rather than on narrow institutional concerns. Effective representation in the media, and to stakeholders, is both a tool for securing our objectives and ultimately getting ministers to give power to those who are best placed to deliver improvements to people's lives.

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