Damning poll leads to call for council comms review

Local authority chief executives have given a negative verdict on the work of council press offices.

A new report reveals that the majority of chief executives believe the benefits of comms to council performance is 'often intangible'.

The report from LGcommunications into chief executive attitudes also reveals a common perception that council PROs deal mainly with local media. LGcommunications polled 50 chief executives of county councils, districts, London authorities, metropolitan authorities and unitary authorities across the country.

The Chief Executives' Challenge Report 2008 reveals that most chief execs want comms to become more strategic. In particular, they would like comms teams to have a better understanding of services, work better with colleagues and become 'more politically adroit'.

Currently, chief executives and leaders do not see comms as a key influencer on the top table. As a result, LGcommunications is calling for senior communicators to raise their game to have greater influence with the political and managerial leadership of their organisations.

Westminster comms head and LGcommunications executive committee member Alex Aiken said: 'This research represents a serious challenge to councils to raise their game. Too many chief executives see our role as tactical, too many don't know what we do. I hope there will be a plan of action to improve standards and skills.'

He added: 'LGcommunications is writing to heads of comms at councils, asking them how we are going to direct their comms teams to raise their own game.'

Essex County Council head of media and marketing Giles Roca said he supported Aiken's plan: 'It's a worrying trend. I think there's room for a reappraisal of how comms is working.'

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