Headlines: December 18th, 2008

The Government is reviewing the way local authorities communicate with the people they serve. The current broad framework has been in place for twenty years and was drawn up before the advent of the Internet, pod-casting and blogs.

The Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has announced a review of the code to see if it meets current needs and whether it hampers or helps councils in communicating effectively with local people. She said it was time for a fresh look at the issue while ensuring value for money and the proper use of public funds. Her announcement follows the Communities in Control White Paper which identified confusion around the code over how far councils should promote and support councillors’ activities.

Research by the Councillors’ Commission has also shown that effective council publicity can demystify the role of councillors and encourage more people to become involved. Revision of the publicity code might require further detailed consultation next year. Hazel Blears said information was fundamental to local democracy and ensuring citizens knew how decisions were made and who was making them.

“We are now living in a 24 hour media world and our communication channels have been transformed. It is important that councillors and councils connect and communicate effectively with their wider community, so everyone is aware of what their council does and what decisions councillors make on their behalf, “she said.

Alongside the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction the Government is encouraging councils to take a range of actions to promote democracy including looking at the quality of their information and ensuring communication is a two way process using local radio, blogs, podcasts and interactive websites.