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LGA GETS COMMUNICATIONS THUMBS UP FROM MORI

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A full-scale study by MORI of the communications activity of the Local Government Association since its launch on 1...
A full-scale study by MORI of the communications activity of the Local Government Association since its launch on 1 April shows a big thumbs up for its initial impact.

The LGA is particularly highly rated by member authorities on its role in promoting a positive image of local government. More than four out of five chief executives (81% of those interviewed) think it is good at this.

The results are due to be presented to members of the LGA's Policy and Strategy Committee next Thursday, 30 October.

The overall ratings for LGA communications are 'very positive' says the report, which highlights that its key strengths are 'the timeliness of information, its topicality, relevance and the fact that it is well written'.

Useful pointers for improvements include recommendations on information overload; the need for improved targeting and fuller exploitation of new technology in getting information through to its 478 member authorities.

These are being actively considered. Means of communicating better with members will be reviewed by sub-groups established by the LGA~s Management Sub-Committee.

Director of Communications, Carol Grant, who commissioned the survey, commented:

'These results are excellent and a strong endorsement of the LGA's communications strategy after only six months in business. I am particularly pleased that member councils have recognised our efforts to give local government a more positive image. There is evidence of a perceived strong performance at the national level.

'Our job now is to ensure that we improve our systems to give the best possible service in the next phase.'

The survey was conducted through a telephone survey of a sample of 100 chief executives and postal questionnaires which were completed by nearly 800 officers and members.

A copy of the summary of the report follows:

LGA COMMUNICATIONS REVIEW REPORT

RESEARCH STUDY CONDUCTED FORTHE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATIONJULY 1997

Introduction

This report sets out the key findings from a research project conducted by the MORI Local Government Research Unit for the Local Government Association as part of its review of communications with members.

Survey Objectives:

This review of the Local Government Association's communication with member authorities is designed to give direction to future communications by:

-- identifying current strengths and weaknesses

-- inviting suggestions for improvements

-- exploring views on different media

-- finding out what member authorities think of LGA communications to date

The aim was not to compile a 'wish list', but to give the LGA a picture of how it is perceived as a communicator, and what member authorities value in the information they receive and the way they receive it. While the focus of the research was on Chief Executives, as they act as the main conduits of LGA information for authorities, the research was also designed to canvass the views of as wide a range of relevant individuals as possible, especially from Members, whose views are considered particularly important by the LGA.

Research Details

-- The report draws on three interrelated surveys, involving both

quantitative and qualitative survey methods.

-- In May 1997, research executives from MORI~s Local Government Research Unit carried out a series of 18 in-depth interviews among LGA officers and members.

-- A telephone survey of a random sample of 100 Local Authority Chief

Executives representing a cross-section of LGA members was conducted during the week of 7 - 15 July.

-- At the same time, a broadly similar questionnaire was circulated to all LGA member authorities with instructions it should be circulated, at the Chief Executive's discretion, to officers and members (10 copies were supplied to each authority, and respondents were free to copy more if required).

-- The research was promoted widely by the LGA through its various

communications materials and at its national conference in late July.

-- The fieldwork for the postal survey was the whole of July, with the

cut-off date for returns being 31 July. In all, we received 782 responses by the cut-off date together with a small number of written responses from authorities where it was decided not to circulate the questionnaire. This reflects the varying practices on disseminating LGA communications within authorities, and highlights some of the difficulties the LGA has influencing dissemination of information.

-- The research method allowed results to be provided from a statistically robust and targeted telephone survey, as well as from a much more widely circulated self-completion postal survey. The report is based on the responses from almost 900 respondents.

-- The response broken down by type of authority, respondent type (officer or member), and political affiliation of members is given in the Appendix.

Publication

-- No press release or publication of the findings shall be made without advance approval of MORI. Such approval will only be refused on grounds of inaccuracy or misrepresentation.

Statistical Reliability

-- Because the results in this are not based on a census, but on a sample, results are subject to sampling error. In general terms, overall results are accurate to plus or minus 4%, with the sample of Chief Executives

accurate to plus or minus 9%. A guide to Statistical reliability is

appended.

Key Findings

I. Overall ratings for LGA communications are very positive. This relates to a perception of good performance nationally (a finding from the qualitative research); communicating with local authorities is seen as a core function of the LGA.

II. The LGA is particularly highly rated on its role in promoting a

positive image of local government - evidence of a perceived strong

performance at the national level.

III. Key strengths are seen to be the timeliness of the information, its topicality, its relevance and that it is well written.

IV. Key weaknesses are that too much information is disseminated and the lack of targeting. However, most respondents think that local authorities should retain their role in targeting material within their authorities.

There is a clear role for the LGA in enabling authorities to target

information within their organisations better.

V. There is support for greater targeting of information on particular

authorities and for establishing a single contact point in each authority for dissemination within the authority. At the moment, responsibility for this often lies with the chief executive's secretary or PA.

VI. Members feel themselves to be less well informed than officers and, indeed, are much less likely to receive information. This finding is reflected in the generally lower approval scores members give to specific issues raised by the research.

VII. There is strong support for the role of the LGA acting as a national resource for synthesising and disseminating the result of research and policy development in the local authority sector.

VIII. The majority of authorities have access, or will soon have access, to the Internet. But familiarity and use of the Internet among respondents is highly variable and is especially low among members.

IX. While there is support for the Internet as a medium for receiving

information from the LGA, most still want to receive paper copies of

information sent out. This may reflect a continuing uncertainty over the use of electronic media for accessing information of this sort.

X. On most issues there are few attitudinal differences between members of different party affiliation.

XI. Respondents from metropolitan authorities, and London boroughs in particular, express generally less positive views about LGA communications than members and officers in other types of authority.

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