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A major new report that tells local authorities how to effectively connect with communities will be unveiled today ...
A major new report that tells local authorities how to effectively connect with communities will be unveiled today to council chief executives, leading councillors and officers at the Local Government Association's annual conference.

The most extensive report into local government communications to date has been led by communications consultants Carol Grant and Marina Pirotta, who will be telling local authorities that raising awareness of who does what at the council and what services are available generally leads to higher levels ofs atisfaction. They will also say that investing in communications makes good business sense.

The report suggests that residents respond best to clear, factuali nformation about some basic things, such as

- Information on which services are provided by the local authority and how they can get access to them.

- News about local events and activities

- Reasons why decisions are made, and how local people's views were taken into account

- Information on how the council spends its money.

The survey shows that 76% of residents receive most of their information about the council from local newspapers, and that they prefer to receive information via council newspapers/magazines, the local media, and leaflets posted through the door.

To help councils communicate more effectively, a web-based good practice toolkit is being launched at the conference today. The toolkit is part of the Connecting with Communities project, aimed at improving communications in local government, which is sponsored by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and supported by the LGA, the IDeA and the Audit Commission.

The toolkit contains professional advice and best practice guidance in the form of documents that can be downloaded. A number of councils have been working with the CWC project team to develop their communications function, and the toolkit offers case studies of their activities, as well as detailing innovative communications work from councils across the country.

Marina Pirotta said:

`Effective communications strategies have been shown to improve residents satisfaction ratings and help councils engage with local people. It is clear from the research that investment in communications makes good business sense.'

In the foreword to the report, Jeremy Beecham, chair of the LGA and Nick Raynsford, minister for local government, say:

`Good communications is both a duty and an opportunity. A duty to reach out to all people, whoever and wherever they are, to bring them into community life. And an opportunity to learn from others, to share excellence, to gived irection, to celebrate success and to acknowledge weakness.

`Local perceptions and awareness matter. Our challenge now is to reach out to all councils across the country in support of better communications.'

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