Benlowndes

a perspective on PR in social housing and regeneration

Tag Archives: local government

Talking about our devolution: what people told us about the deal

With all that’s happened since June, it’s easy to forget that there’s a big decision ahead about how the West of England runs its affairs.

The devolution deal for ‘greater Bristol’ won’t set most people’s pulses racing. But ask those who live and work here what’s important to them and many will say housing, transport, education, jobs or a combination of the above. As it happens, the West of England’s deal is geared towards addressing all of these issues.

On the table is £1bn to invest over 30 years in housing, transport and skills. Post #EUref, when ‘taking back control’ swayed views about our country’s future, handing responsibility for these issues to local areas seems an obvious step.

It’s probably worth five minutes’ of everyone’s time in the scheme of things.

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Can Marvin crack Bristol’s housing crisis?

When they finally arrived, Bristol’s election results signalled a big change for the city that made the national news.

Despite predictions that the mayoral contest was too close to call, voters gave an emphatic victory to Labour’s Marvin Rees. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn saw fit to travel to Bristol to congratulate his new mayor.

As I live outside Bristol, I didn’t vote in the mayoral elections. But I followed the contest with interest and was not surprised by Labour’s win after a drawn-out and sometimes tetchy contest.

On many measures, Rees inherits a city in better shape than in 2012 when independent George Ferguson became Bristol’s first elected mayor. It weathered the recession well and has the most productive economy outside London. Its Enterprise Zone in Bristol Temple Quarter is creating more jobs than any similar local scheme. And the arena project is becoming a reality, more than 20 years after it was first mooted.

These achievements should be recognised as a testament to Ferguson’s leadership, although many of his trenchant critics won’t see it that way.

But there are big challenges that Rees must address amongst the many pledges he made during the campaign.

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Devolution deal or no deal?

“This [deal] puts us in the Premiership in terms of major city regions in the UK. It’s going to be good for the whole population in terms of jobs, housing and transport.

“It also addresses some of the issues such as poverty, fairness and equality.”

Bristol’s elected mayor George Ferguson, 16 March 2016

A conversation about how the West of England can take control of its destiny may be starting to happen. And not before time…

After years of discussions, a devolution deal with Government promises to give the area’s local authorities more power over important issues like housing, transport, planning and skills. If ratified, it would unlock £1bn for local growth projects and provide councils with clout to make a bigger difference in these areas.

But there’s a sticking point for some that could derail the deal before it gets going. The government wants to see a ‘metro mayor’, who would chair a combined authority to oversee a joined-up response to the way these major matters are managed. Given the level of concern about this, it’s not certain that all councils will sign off on the deal.

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How social can fuel great local conversations

“The profession is polarising between those practitioners that are cracking on and using new forms of media to engage publics in two-way dialogue and those that continue to spam journalists with press releases.

“The former have a great future in the business. The latter will be out of job within a generation.”

Stephen Waddington (@wadds) on the future of PR

After thousands of discussions, the West of England’s #WEbuildourfuture consultation ended yesterday (Friday 29 January).

This was an important and challenging conversation about housing and transport for the area’s four local authorities. Where 85,000 new homes should go and how transport should work are complex and thorny issues, with many differing and competing opinions. The last three months have seen the councils engage in genuine and thought-provoking exchanges. I hope it demonstrates the good practice Steven Waddington refers to in his quote above.

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Purdah principles for modern comms

It’s that time of year when public sector comms practitioners must carefully consider all activity to ensure that they are not seen to compromise their neutrality or favour any political group as the local and European elections approach.

This will be the last ‘purdah’ period before the Scottish referendum in September and next year’s general election, when we can rightly expect to see stringent guidelines which will affect promotional activity, speaking engagements, events, political visits and, in some cases, even business decisions.

I’ve blogged about purdah before and have become used to managing communications around this time. The guidelines are looked at in time for every election and I was interested to read this blog post from former local government comms pro Dan Slee who provides some pointers around social media. Should give food for thought for those who manage Twitter, Facebook and other accounts, to go with the official guidance that is issued.

Knowledge Hub no more

More than two years after I blogged about the Communities of Practice online networking platform, people are expressing their disappointment that its successor the Knowledge Hub is likely to be closed down.

Dan Slee’s post yesterday is one of a growing number from over the last few weeks (I’ve left a comment under his post, so won’t repeat it here). If you have something to add to the debate, check out the latest and have a say.

City Deals: big news outside London

I’ve been following the news in my car and online today for reaction to the Government’s City Deals announcement, which hands more powers to some of England’s largest metropolitan areas outside London.

These deals for Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester will see them take on new responsibilities and, in some cases, form new bodies which aim to drive growth and create thousands of new jobs in their areas.

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Links I like 12.06.26

What a wonderful world (of local government blogs and blogging) – We Love Local Government
This feels like a shameless plug, but what’s a blog for if you can’t self-promote? I was delighted to be mentioned yesterday in We Love Local Government’s excellent round-up of blogs they deemed to be of interest to the sector. The good folk at WLLG were clearly aware of my lack of posts during Euro 2012 when stating that the blog was worth a peek ‘every now and again’. It’s good to be noticed though. The other blogs are well worth a read by the way. 

 

 

Links I like 12.05.05

Reaction to the elected mayor vote in Bristol – various
Well done Bristol for bucking the national trend and voting decisively, if in small numbers, in favour of an elected mayor to lead the city from November. They were the only city to vote yes to the proposal following a pretty low-key campaign on the issue. The Centre for Cities has published some links on the issue, while the Bristol Post’s coverage of the result and early indication of who the runners and riders for Bristol’s first elected mayor has been well-informed, detailed and sharp, as good local journalism should be. Whether the result was an endorsement of the proposal or due to more negative factors is open to question, which The Guardian poses in its leader on the issue today. Having followed the debate, I’m sure many people voted yes because the current council leadership was against the idea. Anti politics and apathy were the biggest winners this week, but all is not lost. Hopefully a new way of doing things in Bristol will start to change that.

Elections – ‘We the council’ – Kevin Jump
‘Webist’ Jump provides insight into the information provided by council websites about this week’s local elections. He concludes that interest in the local elections is high and the correct information is available, but is not entirely useful and lacks focus on the needs of local users. A number of websites in the area I cover at work are included in the survey.

Campaigns get people to care about an elected mayor

I’ve been looking at the debate around proposals to devolve power to English cities, by installing elected mayors who (it is argued) will help areas outside London ‘punch above their weight’ and revitalise interest in local democracy.

I wanted to find out more about the arguments around this idea in Bristol, where I work, which is one of 10 cities having a referendum on the issue on 3 May. My feeling, without finding any hard research to stand this up, is that the debate has yet to catch the imagination of the public outside a small group of engaged campaigners on either side – and that getting a decent turnout in the vote will be a big challenge.

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