The proposed changes to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity prohibit 'proactive publicity' in the run-up to an election in favour
of any candidate or party. The redrafted code says: 'Members holding key political or civic positions should be able to comment in an emergency or where there is genuine need.'
Local government minister Beverley Hughes announced the proposals, following consultation, in the wake of the introduction of referendums and petitions in the Local Government Act 2000. Ms Hughes also backed calls from the Society of County and Unitary Public Relations Officers for a review of the 1988 code.
The key amendments relate to new media, promotion of individual councillors and election campaigning.
The Local Government Association welcomed the changes and the commitment to a future overhaul of the code. Policy officer Mark Stevenson said: 'The LGA was consulted and most of our substantive points have been accepted, such as allowing support for voluntary organisations. We wanted more emphasis on electronic media, and to emphasise councils' responsibility to properly inform service users.
'The code is very 1980s speak - it needs to be set in the context of community leadership, consultation and best value. We're glad the code now includes the new power in the Local Government Act to promote social, economic and environmental well-being.'
The National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Executive will consider changes separately.