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Simon Jones: Communicating a council vision isn’t a vanity project

Simon Jones
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Ask the average person in the street about what their council does and most will talk about bins being collected and, if we are lucky, streets being swept.

Some no doubt will delve deeper, based on the odd occasion they have tried to contact their council, perhaps talking about planning, parking permits, licensing or pest control.

A small minority, of course, will have deep-rooted connections based on their own experiences around family support or social care.

I doubt if many will think about their council as champions for the place they serve or have the remotest idea about the vision and priorities are in place. But should we care?

I think we should. Having a compelling narrative and vision that is relatable should be the foundation to everything that we do.

Think of it this way: every council sends out hundreds of press releases each year but they are in danger of becoming meaningless and redundant unless they are anchored to a mission that drives that organisation.

Most council websites are focused almost exclusively on transactions. Trying to unearth what the council is doing to improve their towns, cities or boroughs is incredibly difficult, although with patience the quest may eventually lead you to an almost impenetrable corporate plan.

Councils should feel confident enough to make this information more accessible and to convey it in ways to which people can relate.

It would seem odd that most FTSE100 corporations can easily convey their vision and priorities but councils find it so hard outside of lengthy strategies that only talk to local government.

Why not have a section linked from the home page with information about local priorities with regular updates?

This should not be seen as a vanity project. It is about being open and clear about the future direction in our towns and cities in a way that enables people to truly become involved.

In an age where attracting growth and investment is critical to our long-term financial sustainability, councils must get much better at not only articulating their vision but also actively engage and involve their communities.

This should not be the preserve of economic development nor should it be ‘hidden’ on investment sites or occasionally rolled out for a consultation only to disappear again when it is over. The most successful strategies to attract growth and build confidence will be ones that galvanise our communities and see them as central players in seeing it delivered.

Put simply, a strong narrative and vision should be thing that drives the whole council and wider community; something that is continuous, visible and clear and part of a two-way conversation internally and externally to help shape it.

Without this councils are in danger of becoming faceless.

Simon Jones, chair, LGcomms


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