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
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
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
’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.