Headlines: November 30th, 2005

Local authority communications staff are being offered more help in persuading local people about the improvements that councils have made to services. The Audit Commission has teamed up with the IDeA to develop a new training module for press officers and others. The Connecting with Communities module is being launched to share advice and good practice on spreading information about the new Comprehensive Performance Assessment of local councilsThe Commission says it has taken a fresh look at CPA. It is moving towards a star-based rating system for councils and has branded its revised approach as ‘The Hard Test’. The Commission believes this more stringent test will present council communicators with a tougher challenge to persuade local people of improvements councils have made.

In response it has joined with the IDeA to create the special CPA – themed module of Connecting with Communities web-based toolkit. The new module is a mixture of professional advice and case studies demonstrating good practice. It also includes a series of downloadable documents dealing with issues including communicating a council’s CPA assessment and the story of any improvements to key stakeholders and managing the timing and arrangements for publication of CPA results for single tier and county councils. Other documents deal with communicating CPA for district councils. These will include an update next year to reflect the Audit Commission’s changing approach to CPA for district councils.

Jennifer Tankard, IDeA Head of Communication and Marketing, explained that all those involved in local authority communications needed to understand the implications for councils of the new ‘Harder Test’. The new module, she said would create clarity about requirements and provide advice on managing communications, which were a critical component of effective reputation management.