Richard Evans: Councils must deliver minimum standards

Local government communications can be a tough job. There are so many variables that can influence the effectiveness of how well councils communicate with residents and stakeholders.

Richard Evans: lack of consistency
Richard Evans: lack of consistency

These can vary from whether the council is hung or not, whether there is clear leadership from officers and councillors and the size of budget to the value councillors and officers place on communication, the competencies of the communications staff, the type of council and the make up of the local community.
With around 400 councils, there is inevitably a lack of consistency across the board. One unitary council press office I recently spoke to couldn’t tell me how many council tenants they had. Something like that is really basic and should be on the tip of the tongue.
A response like this does absolutely nothing for the council’s reputation and no amount of fancy websites or council magazines can make up for that lack of knowledge.
On the other hand, one small district council team we have worked with were superb. They knew everything and were fantastically helpful.
Groups like LG Comms are doing a great job of leading the drive ‘to promote best practice, to explore new innovations and drive excellence in local government communications’, but there also needs to be a focus on helping councils, regardless of size, deliver minimum standards of service and clear guidance on what activities should be given priority.
There are great examples to learn from with a great deal of knowledge and experience across councils that needs to be brought together and shared. One only has to look at the quality of the recent award winners at the recent LG Comms conference to realise the amount of talent available in local authority teams.
If local government communications is to be recognised as high quality by outsiders, it is not enough for a few councils to scale the heights of excellence in one or two areas. That excellence must be applied across the board.
The place to start must be putting in place a series of basic standards that can be easily transferred no matter the size of the council or communications team. If we can’t walk, how on earth can we be expected to run.

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