Councils warned that they must sharpen up their PR

Councils risk compounding public apathy about local government and even having their services taken over by Government hit squads if they do not improve communication with their communities, delegates were told at a conference on council PR on Thursday.

Councils risk compounding public apathy about local government and

even having their services taken over by Government hit squads if they

do not improve communication with their communities, delegates were told

at a conference on council PR on Thursday.



Surrey County Council head of communications Alison Cawley told the

conference that good PR was integral to the success of ’best value’,

Labour’s alternative to the Conservative system for running local

services.



Under forthcoming best value legislation, councils will have a statutory

duty to consult their communities on how to run local services, and will

have to prove that they are responding to consultation.



If councils do not provide best value in services, the Government may

send in hit squads to run them as it has already done with failing

schools.



Cawley said: ’Communication is an integral part of best value, and vital

to its success. If councils can’t make best value work, we’ll end up

compounding our current problems. The public will be more cynical and

apathetic. Our credibility will be low. And that means hit squads going

in left, right and centre to take over departments and entire

councils.



’It will be crucial to councils to have good communication advice. And

that does not mean taking a decision and then saying to the

communications team ’shall we do a press release?’’,’ she said.



Cawley said many councils were already taking communications seriously,

but stressed that the PR function should be involved at the beginning of

the policy making process.



The conference, Communications and Best Value - The Missing Link, was

organised by the weekly magazine Municipal Journal in conjunction with

the Society of County and Unitary Public Relations Officers and public

affairs firm Citigate Westminster.



Leader, p9.



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