Headlines: September 11th, 2003

Senior Communications staff within local councils are the latest target for the Improvement and Development Agency. It is to build on its training and communications toolkits by launching a leadership development programme aimed at senior council communications professionals and heads of communications.The object of the programme is to create a group of top-tier local government communications executives who are serious about a career within, and the improvement of, local government communications. IDeA says it will be a heavyweight programme and people wanting to take part will have to have their applications supported by their chief executive.

The training will include a series of residential courses, and those taking part will have to undertake a work-swap placement and carry out a substantial research project. Everything learned from the programme will be published and shared in Summer 2004.

The programme has grown out of the successful council communications project, ‘Connecting with Communities’ run by the Agency with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Local Government Association and the Audit Commission, which found that communications had a vital role to play in how councils are perceived. It also found that good retention and development of professional communications staff marked out high-performing local authorities.

The IDeA’s Principal Communications Consultant, Pascoe Sawyers, who will lead the programme, said the course was about making heads of communication more effective leaders on the corporate stage and therefore more valuable assets for local authorities as a whole. “Those authorities with attendees on the programme will see the benefit not just in an increased communications competence but also in other areas too, such as the ability to lead cross-council initiatives, or managing partnership projects, for example,” he said.

The local government communications leaders programme will begin in January next year with the closing date for applications being October 31st. Further information about the programmes is available from Pascoe Sawyers at pascoe.sawyers@idea.gov.uk