Ben Lowndes #viewsoncomms

A perspective on PR, development and life in the South West

Tag Archives: Local government

Links I like 12.04.04

Local elections 2012: predicting the 50 councils to watch – LGiU blog
The Local Government Information Unit charts the more hotly contested local councils elections this year, which have yet to turn the heads of many people if my (very basic) tests of public opinion represent a wider view. It identifies a number of councils in the area I cover, including Southampton, Portsmouth, Swindon and Reading (where I have reported on elections in the past) amongst its ‘top 50’. Informative and useful. Lewis Baston makes interesting points in his post too.

Councils warned about politically sensitive posts during purdah – PR Week
It wouldn’t be election time without a warning in PR Week about purdah, with the latest edition containing an article about the use of digital and social media in the run up to polling day. In the piece, Alex Aitken makes the point that I’d like to hear more of: “The business of the council continues and reassuring people that we’re fixing potholes and looking after the vulnerable should continue to be communicated.”

Cities need to make the case for a real deal

I’ve been having discussions and reading about the enhanced role our major cities can play, proposals to hand more power and responsibility to city halls, or Core Cities, and the ambition of towns to be seen as having more clout.

Yesterday’s announcement that Perth, St Asaph and Chelmsford are to be crowned Jubilee cities brought back memories of my time reporting the ultimately fruitless city status bids of the towns in which I worked, in Reading at the end of the 1990s and Doncaster a couple of years later. A lot of people don’t get the point of these city status bids, as they confer no extra power or funding on the winner. But it shouldn’t be underestimated what it means to people who live and work there. It can help raise the profile or even change the image of a place (ask Preston, who beat Donny to become a ‘Golden City’ in 2002).

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Freedom of Information, or ‘freedom to fish’?

I’d like to share with you two views on our Freedom of Information legislation, which is the subject of some serious discussions about its future use.

The Guardian has today published a leader in defence of the Freedom of Information Act, saying that any proposed move to restrict its application would be ‘a retrograde step’.

This is in response to Parliamentary considerations on possible reform of the Act and mentions a report from the Ministry of Justice into the volume of requests dealt with by Government departments. It’s interesting that the leader states that the report suggests dealing with FoI requests is ‘increasingly onerous’, when no such language is used in the document.

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Measurement made doable for local authorities

I’ve been spending the last couple of days reading an excellent report by Westminster City Council into how it measures its communications activity.

I think the industry is good at talking about evaluation, as anyone who reads PR Week will know, but seems less certain of delivering it consistently and well. I’ve been involved in some decent campaigns, which were able to demonstrate real results (sorry, outcomes) that were directly linked to communications.

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Lots of love for local government

I was recently asked by the We Love Local Government team to supply them with a tweet about why I ‘love’ the sector for a post they were putting together to mark the anniversary of their blog.

I was flattered to be asked and duly set about putting my thoughts into a tweet for them to use in a round-up of opinions from the sector and those who work with it (as I do). It was not easy, not least because there are things I don’t like about local government, particularly where communication with the public is concerned. Sometimes the bureaucratic, jargon heavy, flat-footed approach where a quick, clear and simple response would do is cause for frustration rather than adoration.

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Links I like 11.10.22

‘Engagement’: fashionable yet bankrupt – Canalside View
Martin Weigel writes at length about the industry-wide misuse of the term ‘engagement’ and hits the nail squarely on the head a number of times. The problems he cites in his nine ‘bad habits’ of engagement highlight his main point that the phrase has become so widely used, yet without any common definition or metrics to back it up, that it has come to mean everything and nothing. It’s well-considered, insightful and well worth a read.

You know you’ve blogged too long about local government when – We Love Local Government
Congratulations to the team behind this blog, who recently had their 100,000th visitor and are preparing a post to mark its anniversary soon (as I understand). This is a republication of an earlier post, which found its way into The Guardian, but is linked here because it makes a particularly apt ‘engagement’ point of its own.

‘You know you’ve worked in Local Government for too long when: you see chatting to the person next to you on the bus as a community engagement exercise.’

Using unnecessary capital letters for words like Local Government is a point I’d like to add to their list, but congratulations to the team for producing a great daily digest of life at a local council.

Links I like 11.10.01

Local Government Oscars – We Love Local Government
I’ve been on the periphery of a couple of entries for the Local Government Chronicle Awards this week, in connection with projects we support. They are fantastic schemes and worthy of recognition. Assembling an award entry can be time consuming and demanding, especially when left to the last minute. Restrictions on photography budgets can make getting high quality up-to-date images to support your entry more difficult. And how many people do you send to the do if you are shortlisted? Done wrong, chasing awards can be decried as a waste of public money. But few people are heard saying that about the winners. This blog post on We Love Local Government sets out some reasons why some awards are worth entering. Others (which will remain nameless) are not worth the hassle.

Why working as a council PR means taking a vow of silence

An entertaining post from a frustrated PR has appeared on the We Love Local Government blog. The poster (who is, of course, anonymous) writes about the culture shock of moving from the private sector to the febrile atmosphere of a local council in 2011. It’s a good read. But, given the complaints about the politically neutral nature of the post, I wonder if the correspondent is in the right job?

Why working as a council PR means taking a vow of silence As regular readers of our blog will know, we love a guest post; especially one written by someone who works in a part of local government we have never worked in. Today is one of those days with a post from a self-described “local government PR” who argues that leaving the private sector and joining local government also means giving up your right to have any opinions at all. If you would like to submit a guest post please drop us a line at welov … Read More

via We Love Local Government

Jury’s out on eviction talk

I was interested to read that my former local council in Bury has become the latest landlord to promise to evict any tenant found guilty of offences connected with the riots last week.

This follows similar pledges from councils in Wandsworth, Manchester, Salford, Nottingham and others in the days following the disturbances, which have seen more than 1,500 arrests in a little over a week.  

The calls seem to chime with popular sentiment, with more than 100,000 people having signed a petition calling for rioters to lose their benefits. This e-petition has been referred to a parliamentary committee, which will decide if the idea will be debated in the House of Commons by MPs.

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Twitter cases show PR may be better than legal action

It’s been a frenzied week for the media, which has taken navel gazing to new levels over the spectacular failure of lawyers to protect Ryan Giggs’ privacy. They may have succeeded for a while in keeping their client’s name out of stories of his alleged affair. But, as pressure mounted and newspapers’ displeasure at the fact that it was open season on Twitter grew, it was only a matter of time before traditional media named him. By the time John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to publicly name Giggs, the story had turned from a fairly trivial one to an issue of constitutional significance and no amount of legal heavy-handedness was going to suppress it. When the Sunday Herald broke ranks last weekend and named Giggs, public appetite for the story was huge – and resulted in a record number of hits on its website, despite the fact that item only appeared in print.

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