Public relations and communications are fundamental to modern, high-value and cost-effective local public services.
Mandy Pearse, Vice Chair of the CIPR’s Local Public Services Group (LPS), said: “The CIPR made a swift defence of the work of public sector communicators after an attack by The Times newspaper based on information from the Taxpayer’s Alliance. The CIPR LPS worked with the CIPR President Sarah Pinch and CIPR press office to ensure a timely, robust rebuttal of the allegations of armies of spin doctors being employed by local councils.”
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) spoke out in defence of local government investment in public relations and communications staff, after the TaxPayers’ Alliance called for a ‘crack down on this army of taxpayer-funded propagandists.’
In a report published originally in Press Gazette, and followed up in The Times, the magazine reported that Freedom of Information requests had shown that 405 local and city councils employ 3,453 people in PR, communications and marketing positions.
Sarah Pinch, President of the CIPR 2015, said: “It should be of no surprise to anyone that such numbers of public relations and communications staff are employed by city and local councils, who provide frontline services to over 60 million people.
“Each and every publicly funded authority has a responsibility to deliver a first class service to their communities. It is vital that residents understand what services are available to them and how to access them. In order to deliver this effectively, engaging in two-way open, honest and transparent dialogue must be managed through the expertise of professional and accountable public relations practitioners.”
She added: “The Press Gazette and Taxpayers’ Alliance have shown a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and role of a modern public relations team. The year is 2015, not 1985 – and PR simply does not only exist to serve the beck and call of the national, local and regional press.
“A modern public relations team has to work hard to reach their communities, whether through public events, public consultations, direct information provision or via social forms of media. PR has been at the core of consulting with communities in negotiating how vastly reduced local government budgets are spent, communicating these challenges internally with staff, and externally with the public they serve. On top of this, to save money across other departments, access to services is also moving online – all of this is managed by an effective communications team. The work that they undertake is frontline. It is not a ‘nice’ to have, but a vital and central part of the role of local government.”
Sarah highlighted the quality of work from communicators working in local public services, saying: “I am particularly pleased to see a number of campaigns shortlisted in our [CIPR] national awards which highlight the value professional communicators bring to their local communities. From Coventry City Council’s campaign to increase recruitment of social workers, to Kirklees Council work in challenging attitudes towards domestic violence and abuse; activities such as these are a fundamental part of delivering a modern, high-value and cost-effective, local public service.
“We are proud of the work each and every public relations professional undertakes in local government to change attitudes, engage and listen to their local communities, and enable those in most need to access vital life-changing services.”