It used to be easy communicating the annual budget. A quick press release about a public meeting or two and the job was done. Today, communicating the budget in a world of cuts, efficiencies and savings is a far bigger task. Feedback from residents can help shape final decisions. LGComms have a project. Can you help?
GUEST EDITOR by Emma Rodgers
When I first joined Local Government Communications (LGcommunications), I was really keen to make sure that I could do everything I could to provide help and support to public sector communications colleagues up and down the country.
And having become vice chair in May of this year, I was even more determined to make it so as I know fellow board members were.
As a local authority head of communications, there is nothing more frustrating than councils appearing to start from scratch every time, whether that’s because of us not sharing knowledge, assets or learning, not knowing who to link with or simply because we’re missing a trick. When every penny counts and we’re many of us facing the same challenges, it just doesn’t make sense. At the same time, it was about LGcommunications making a difference in practical terms to the members we support.
One of the areas that seemed to come up time and time again was the challenge of ever decreasing local authority budgets and how we change the conversation with residents. Not only that but how could we made sure that we as councils didn’t fall foul of not doing what we need to when communicating about proposed changes in major areas that directly affect people’s lives.
That’s why, myself and fellow LGcommunications executive member Julian Ellerby, working together with the Local Government Association and the Consultation Institute who have both kindly agreed to support the initiative, are working together on a guide that looks to help local government communicators on communicating all things budget. The guide will include checklists for what you need to do to make sure you’re not unwittingly breaking the law, case studies examples of what’s worked, the pitfalls you need to be aware of and considerations for engaging effectively with residents. Whether it’s a wider conversation about changing the relationship with people in your area or a specific budget issue, it will aim to be informative, useful and have practical hints and tips to draw on.
Basically it aims to make sure council communications teams don’t have to start from scratch when communicating with citizens on all things budget related and for them to quickly and easily see what others up and down the country are doing. But we can’t do it alone, we need you to get involved. Please take five minutes to fill in this survey and tell us what you think. It will really help to inform the guide. The closing date for the survey is Friday 2 October so you don’t have long. If you respond to one request today, please make it this. Thanks in advance. You can also get in touch with me via the comments below, on twitter or via email to flag any views, case studies or any other thoughts you have. It would be really good to hear from you.
Emma Rodgers is strategic manager communications and marketing at Stoke-on-Trent City Council. She is vice-chair of LGComms.