Luke Blair: A borough that gets comms right

I have been spending a fascinating few weeks as acting head of comms at a London borough just lately, parachuted in to fulfil a short-term need.

During a busy time in this particular corner of the capital, it has been interesting to watch how my adopted team have responded to the various challenges flung their way.

Soon after I started, the snow prompted road grit and school closures in equal measure. We also had a perfectly sensible planning scheme turned into a media opportunity by a vocal minority, and hosted an Israeli event with Palestinian protesters.

All this on top of late-night meetings, an exacting body of councillors, a leader's office setting ambitious agendas and a CEO determined to deliver it all.

I have worked in enough press offices to know they all have their pressures. But it has really struck me how this team in particular has responded.

Apart from juggling the unpredictable daily news agenda, they have kept up the council's profile, managed the website, produced a regular stream of press releases and put out borough publications, without taking an eye off the ball, missing a trick or (so far) messing anything up.

They have a sharp eye for what matters down on the ground, among the residents, where each tiny council decision seems magnified in its effect. Their diplomatic skills, managing awkward wards where one wrong word can cause untold damage, are crucial.

At the same time, they do not get stressed and they do not scream and shout. In short, they are quietly effective and care about their work. They know it matters to the council and they are professional and thorough about getting it right.

In that strange outside world, the world of 'rotten boroughs', where councils are always incompetent, provide terrible services and wallow around in mis-spent taxpayers' money, my experience of a conscientious, dedicated and hard-working press office would not be believed.

But I am afraid it is true. And I am proud to have been part of the team.

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