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The Local Government Association is to embark on a major public relations offensive on behalf of councils in an att...
The Local Government Association is to embark on a major public relations offensive on behalf of councils in an attempt to boost its fortunes in Westminster.

The association has decided that unless it addresses the pervasive lack of interest in, and respect for, the sector in Parliament, the media and the public eye, it can only go so far as a lobbying organisation.

Tactics under consideration include:

--Promoting and empowering council staff so they are ambassadors not apologists

--LGA chair Sir Jeremy Beecham (Lab) and chief executive Sir Brian Briscoe to court high-level media decision-makers

--An LGA rebuttal unit to tackle bad news local government stories

--A network to procure experts for every passing 'buzz' story about local government, for example gritting in the winter

--A switch of focus from broadsheets to the more widely read local media

--A national brand for local government

--Using issues like the local environment to make the link in people's minds between local and central government.

Councils will be encouraged to provide the same prompt response to queries from councillors as from MPs, boosting the status of councillors' surgeries and bring them 'from the murky end of local government into the mainstream', according to LGA director of strategy and communications Phil Swann.

Mr Swann added: 'It is time to do something to promote the sector as a whole. According to organisations like MORI, people like the services councils provide. But there are lower levels of satisfaction for the organisation that lies behind them. If local government was a private-sector holding company it couldn't care less.

'But it's democratic and it has a vital community leadership role, so the fact people don't like the thing that stands behind their service is a problem for us.'

The initiative will not be a 'one-year fix' - the association anticipates it will take at least four years.

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