I received an email from out of the blue the other day containing an offer to ‘sponsor’ a post on my blog, which at first glance seemed appealing; money for nothing, almost.
The email from Sarah, Outreach Manager at Article Writing Services, was vague enough to warrant a reply:
“We have a client who would like to pay you for the opportunity to sponsor a blog post that you have recently written. We know that blogs can be expensive to run and our client would like to support you in that endeavour. In return, our client is asking for one link that they specify placed [sic] into the body copy of the blog post (no porn or gambling). Feel free to contact me with any concerns or clarifications you may have.”
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles used the Conservative spring conference yesterday to speak about some of his priorities for local government.
In his speech, he drew an interesting parallel with a Private Members Bill brought forward by Margaret Thatcher more than 50 years ago, which opened up council meetings to the press, and his challenge to authorities to be more open and accountable.
Senior executive pay, town hall secrecy and the publication of council newspapers (or ‘town hall Pravdas’ as his speech writers call them) all featured in the conference address and a number of Labour councils came under fire too.
Secretary of State Eric Pickles‘ written statement to Parliament outlined his department’s recent undertakings, which included a new initiative to help local communities revitalise disused pubs and social clubs, taking action to make local government more transparent and launching plans to support people to build their own homes.
Today’s announcement that Freedom of Information (FoI) rules will be changed are worth checking out by any public sector communicator – as more of them are to be affected by it.
The move signals the Government’s intention to make it easier for the public to use the Freedom of Information Act to seek details from a wider range of bodies about how public money is spent and decisions taken.
This announcement has formed part of Nick Clegg’s speech on liberty today, which also made proposals to enhance freedom of speech principles by reforming libel laws (an issue which the media has been quick to focus on in its reports).
Despite the challenges this move poses, I welcome increased transparency and openness across the public sector. It may generate increased work levels for the organisations to be covered by the revised act for the first time; but with openness comes accountability, which is something that I would argue is a good thing.
It also creates a role for comms teams in supporting organisations who are asked to satisfy FoI requests.
The full press statement covering the Ministry of Justice announcement can be found here.
The argument for it is compelling: something is needed to create a powerful, straightforward incentive which rewards local authorities who deliver new housing. This would be done by providing funding, to be ring-fenced for the local community which accepts new housing, over a six-year period. It is an enticement to local communities to welcome development, rather than oppose it.