The Local Government Association (LGA) is carrying out a review of its comms functions as it looks to implement significant consolidation, reflecting the drastic cuts being considered by its members.
The LGA Group is made up of the LGA, the Improvement and Development Agency (Idea), Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (Lacors), Leadership Centre & Local Government Employers (LGE).
All of these have their own decentralised comms functions, but are likely to be merged as a result of the review.
LGA programme director for media and public affairs Iain Wilton said: 'It's part of a process of getting closer together across the LGA Group. It's all about improving co-ordination of services and looking at options for consolidation across the group.'
Although numbers have not been confirmed, it is thought the LGA's comms staff could drop from 50 to about 37 should the centralisation go ahead. Wilton said an announcement would be made next Monday.
At a recent briefing held by Hanover, permanent secretary for government communications Matt Tee called for integration at every level of public sector comms.
The move has received support from LGA members. Brighton and Hove City Council head of corporate comms John Shewell said: 'It's good to see the LGA setting an example for the rest of the public sector to follow. Unifying council and local public service communications must be a priority.
'If local public sector comms heads don't grasp the opportunity now, they will continue wasting public money by duplicating efforts, which will likely damage reputations.'
Bristol City Council service director of comms and marketing Peter Holt agreed: 'At a time where the whole public sector is wringing every last pound out of its comms functions, it's good that the LGA Group is acknowledging it is not immune.'
The move reflects a general shift among local councils.
Lancashire County Council is undergoing its own centralisation project.
The council has five comms units with 75 people, which head of comms and marketing Paul Masterman considers 'neither sustainable nor effective'. It plans to create a new central team of PR and marketing staff under a yet-to-be-appointed head of comms.
And in Birmingham, a self-produced City Council consultation document criticised comms for lacking strategic planning and not knowing how much money it spent.
- the BBC The broadcaster is currently integrating all its comms into one division, reporting directly to director of comms Ed Williams.
Who could be next?
- Department of Health/NHS 'Lots of different initiatives and teams in a sprawling department,' said one source.
- Environment Agency Has an 11-strong national press office and eight comms units in England and Wales.
- Welsh Assembly and Scottish Government 'The devolved administrations are smaller and more compact than Whitehall, and may have to look at consolidating resources,' noted one observer.
50 - Current number of comms staff at the LGA
37 - Possible number of LGA comms staff if centralisation takes place
67% - Public sector and not-for-profit PROs who expect budget cuts*
18% - Public sector and not-for-profit PROs who expect redundancies*
*According to a survey of 1,000 PROs by VMA Selection