The concept of public involvement in local councils' activities is now central to the philosophy of most local authorities. The code was first introduced in 1988 and the new alterations are designed to reflect the community leadership role and the power of promoting well-being which are now key drivers of local government.
Local authorities are required to 'have regard to the provisions' of the code in coming to any decision on publicity. The code highlights factors that local authorities need to bear in mind when making decisions on publicity that deals with controversial and sensitive issues.
The 1986 Act defines publicity as 'any communication in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or to a section of the public'. The code is relevant across the whole range of local authorities' work.
The revised code more accurately reflects the environment in which councils work, and the situations and circumstances they are responding to. The LGA (and SCUPRO) contributed to the DTLR's consultation on the changes, which represented a significant shift in the thinking about the scope and purpose of local authority publicity. The DTLR said during the consultation period: 'local authority publicity should be as much about consulting local people and seeking their views as it is about disseminating information'.
The changes to the code will assist councils in:
* Developing community strategies and plans
* Promoting the social, environmental and economic well-being of their areas
* Implementing communications strategies
* Exercising community leadership
* Partnership working and LSPs
* Adopting new constitutions
* Consultation and democratic renewal
The consultation period by the national assembly for Wales ended last month on a Welsh code. There is a similar process underway in Scotland.
Changes to the publicity code explained, published by LGA/SCUPRO, is available from IDeA Publication Sales, tel 020 7296 6600; fax 020 7296 6523. Price -£10 to local authorities and not for profit bodies;£15 others.
LGA code CA145. ISBN: 1 84049 165 2