COMMUNICATING WITH RESIDENTS by malj

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									    COMMUNICATING WITH RESIDENTS



A Scrutiny Review on how the Council communicates with residents and
              recommendations for further improvement.
                      Working Group Membership




                  Councillor Russell Mellor (Chairman)
                       Councillor John Getgood
                     Councillor Mrs Anne Manning
                      Councillor Gordon Jenkins
                      Councillor David McBride




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CONTENTS

                                                                       Page No


1.                Introduction                                            1


2.                Findings and Recommendations                            3


3.                Background                                              9


4.                Evidence and Conclusions                               14


5.                Appendix 1 – Breakdown of expenditure recharged        20
                  through the Promotion and Design Service

6.                Appendix 2 – Other advertising and recruitment         21
                  advertising costs

7.                Appendix 3 - Evidence considered and meetings held     22




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1.          INTRODUCTION

1.1         Communicating effectively is essential in raising the awareness of local
            residents to Council services. It also helps encourage a wider understanding of
            what the Council does and enables local people to be involved in decisions
            important to them. Importantly effective communication should demonstrate
            how the concerns of residents are taken into account in Council performance
            and priorities.

1.2         Improving communications is therefore one of the key objectives in the Building
            A Better Bromley Statement agreed by the Council‟s Executive in June 2004
            and at the start of the 2005/06 municipal year the Strategy and
            Communications PDS Committee accordingly highlighted communications as
            an important area where it should contribute suggestions to help further
            improvement.

1.3         At its meeting on 8th September 2005, the Committee agreed terms of
            reference for the review as follows:

                  “To review the effectiveness of the Council‟s communications activities
                  and to make recommendations for improvement that will have a real
                  impact on our customers.”

            Getting our message across

                  Using the findings of communications research carried out for us by RBA
                  research in February 2005, identify how best to:

                     meet residents‟ need for information from the Council, i.e. what do
                      they want to know about and when?

                     communicate key messages to residents, i.e. using the right medium
                      for the message

                     improve on the quality and content of communications, i.e. what we
                      include, how we say it and how we present it

                     maximise our reach i.e. improve distribution of key corporate
                      publications

            Managing resources better

                  With the drive for greater efficiency across the public sector, to explore
                  how we can:

                     maximise the effectiveness of advertising supported publications i.e.
                      establish criteria for commissioning and quality control

                     package service and other Council information together in a more
                      visually appealing and practical way for customers i.e. across
                      traditional service boundaries and budgets.


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            Learning from others

                  In pursuing the above, to also:

                     consider our performance in communications alongside other
                      comparable local authorities in the BVPI General User Survey

                     adopt best practice from other comparable local authorities as
                      appropriate.




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2.          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

One-Council publications

2.1         Publications production remains fragmented and it is necessary to have a more
            unified branding/look and feel. Currently not everything is professionally
            designed using the in-house Design Studio and it is necessary for the
            Communications team to have corporate ownership of the Council‟s image and
            brand.

2.2         Now that the Design Studio is no longer operating on a Trading Account it can
            have an important role with the central communications team, in ensuring a
            corporate brand and style for Council publications. Departments should
            discuss all major pieces of work with their portfolio communications lead officer
            and the Design Studio should be used to design all publications unless there
            are exceptional reasons for not doing so.

2.3         Meeting corporate branding and design objectives would be most easily
            achieved by re-locating all Departmental Communications staff to a
            strengthened Central Communications team. This would link with central
            control of publicity budgets (see recommendation 18 below). But with this
            there would be a formidable analysis process to follow through as there is only
            one other Communications Officer in the Council with a job description or skills
            set comparable to those of the central team with the remaining communications
            activity forming a small part of a lot of individual jobs. Further consideration
            should also be given to the Central Communications Team and the Design
            Studio working together within the Chief Executive‟s Department.

Recommendation 1
The Council should place more importance on a coherent corporate image and
branding of Council publications. All Departments and services should be expected
to discuss major pieces of work with their portfolio communications lead officer and
unless there are exceptional circumstances, Departments should use the Design
Studio to design all publications, adverts, flyers etc.

Recommendation 2
The Communications Team should work with the Design Studio to develop a
comprehensive corporate communications manual. This would provide an obligatory
literature checklist for all Departments and include matters such as accessibility and
standard contact details etc. It would also complement the Customer Service
Handbook for staff.

Recommendation 3
In consultation with the Communications Team, the Design Studio should establish
an annual corporate literature schedule (cross-departmental) detailing key
publications produced on a regular basis (and prioritising these over ad hoc design
requests), for ongoing overview and development by the central communications
team




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Recommendation 4
Staff procedures should be reviewed and developed so that in requesting work from
the Design Studio it will be necessary to ensure that (i) all jobs are published
electronically as well as hard copy and that (ii) guidelines are provided for effective
stock control. These aspects should be highlighted in the corporate communications
manual (see Recommendation 2 above).

Recommendation 5
The central communications team should also develop a checklist of protocols to be
followed for circulation to all staff engaged in publicity activities.

Recommendation 6
Control and use of the Council logo should be examined to ensure as far as possible
that it is only associated with sound organisations promoting activities and marketing
products with which the Council would want to be associated. This includes
advertised supported Council publications and there should be a requirement that
these are “signed off” by the Council‟s Communications Manager (see
recommendation 16 below).

Recommendation 7
As a more radical option to support corporate ownership and branding of Council
publications, we recommend that serious thought be given to re-locating all Council
core communications roles into in a strengthened Central Communications team.

Distribution of key corporate publications

2.4         There are parts of the borough which are more difficult to reach with corporate
            publications than other parts and it is important to identify those publications
            where full coverage is necessary.

2.5         For these publications, a number of measures can be considered to ensure
            their complete distribution but there would be cost implications and it is
            important that resources are made available for the most appropriate method to
            meet the communications objective. These could include:

                 distributing a major publication via Royal Mail over a two to three month
                  time frame (although it would be necessary to supplement this with
                  additional mail outs in areas where Royal Mail sectors are not co-terminus
                  with borough boundaries);
                 possibly using the distribution company employed by Onyx (waste collection
                  contractors) combining distribution of corporate publications with waste
                  news;
                 possibly using publishing companies who, as a full package, print, label and
                  distribute major publications;
                 mixing distribution – for example using local free press distribution for areas
                  of high delivery performance and using Royal Mail where press delivery is
                  poor.
                 using other organisations apart from Royal Mail e.g. Business Post.




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2.6         Council notice boards should also be used more effectively, particularly those
            at town centres and libraries and duty officers should ensure that notice boards
            are kept up to date with key Council messages.

Recommendation 8
In view of the difficulty reaching some areas with key publications it is important to
identify those requiring full coverage and to then ensure sufficient resourcing for the
most appropriate method of distribution.

Recommendation 9
More effective use be made of Council notice boards particularly external ones by
libraries and town centre locations, with duty officers charged to promote key
messages or activities.

Plain Language

2.7         All publications produced by the Council must be easy to read and understand.
            All officers drafting documents should use plain English.

Recommendation 10
Communications with a print run or distribution over a certain level (1,000) should be
reviewed as a matter of course against Plain Language Standards;

Recommendation 11
Plain language training should be identified as a core corporate requirement for all
officers required to communicate in writing as a significant part of their job; and

Recommendation 12
Direct customer feedback be trialled e.g. by pre-printing a standard footer on headed
paper or publications along the lines of: “If this letter/publication is not clear, please
tell us how by posting it to: FREEPOST LBB BETTER WORDS or ring 020 8313
xxxx”

Recommendation 13
All Departments should review a proportion of their standard letters each year e.g.
20% to ensure that Plain Language is being used.

An Annual Publication

2.8         Earlier research indicated that a significant proportion of Bromley residents
            favoured using existing communication channels rather than a Council
            magazine.

            Introducing a Council magazine would also entail significant investment (in the
            order of £200k per year for ten issues) and ongoing commitment and although
            it might help improve communication with residents, there are other routes of
            communication including the possibility of an annual publication.

2.9         An annual communication might comprise a slightly expanded version of the
            current A-Z of services but even this would be costly - to fold and mail out an A-
            Z type publication to all residents with the annual Council Tax demand would


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            cost nearly £50,000 excluding production costs. Currently the A-Z is planned
            for issue on a bi-yearly rather than an annual basis. Therefore to undertake a
            comprehensively distributed Annual Publication would require either a
            significant increase in Communications team budgets or the loss of almost all
            other publications e.g. Borough Briefing, In Touch, Customer Service
            Handbook.

2.10 However, our view is that an Annual Publication would be a very helpful
     addition to the package of Key Publications already produced for residents. It
     would provide a distinct opportunity to convey key messages and as such we
     recommend that the Communication team budgets be increased to provide for
     the production and distribution of such a Publication. Its distribution should also
     be earmarked for a time in the year when residents have not as yet received a
     Corporate communication. In other words its distribution would ensure a
     continual drip feed of corporate material and key messages to residents
     throughout the year.

2.11 The Working Party gave serious thought to including an Annual Publication with
     the annual Council Tax demand (and Business rate equivalent) but there are
     significant concerns which lead us to conclude that this would not be an
     appropriate option. For example, given the need to keep rigidly to Council Tax
     deadlines, additional risks and pressures would be created if the publication
     production slipped for good reason. Also, receiving a publication with the
     Council Tax bill might, in a number of cases, be counter-productive for
     residents (research shows people don‟t tend to read what goes out with these
     bills).

Recommendation 14
Instead of a regular Council Magazine we recommend that an annual publication be
produced as an addition to the existing suite of corporate publications circulated to
residents. To resource this, current corporate Communications team budgets should
be increased to cover production and comprehensive distribution of the publication
on an annual basis.

Recommendation 15
An annual communication should be distributed at a time which would best ensure a
regular flow of corporate publications to residents throughout the year. Distributing
an annual publication with Council Tax demands (and business rate equivalent)
would be contrary to this principle and would incur considerable pressures to keep
fully to Council Tax deadlines - with no room for slippage.

Advertising supported Publications

2.12 A number of Departments produce advertising supported publications. In
     principle this is a reasonable practice but there needs to be strong internal
     project management and care needs to be taken to ensure that advertisements
     are from sound companies that the Council would want to be associated with.
     Also, that the practice results in outside financial support being gained rather
     than too many adverts being sought from internal teams or services which will
     militate against cost-effectiveness for the Council of this kind of initiative. It is
     recommended that Departments discuss plans with the central communications


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            team beforehand for advice on protocols and practice and that training be
            provided for those with an advertising budget to spend, as it is not always clear
            that those commissioning adverts have all the skills or knowledge needed to
            most effectively evaluate the offers made to them. Advertising supported
            publications should also be “signed off” by the Council‟s Communications
            Manager.

Recommendation 16
Departments should in all cases discuss publication plans with the central
communications team beforehand for advice on protocols and practice. This
includes advertising supported Council publications and there should be a
requirement that these are “signed off” by the Council‟s Communications Manager.

Recommendation 17
Training on protocols and practice for advertising supported publications should also
be provided for all relevant officers in Departments with an advertising budget to
spend.

Identifying Publicity Costs

2.13 In view of the fragmentation of publications and comparatively few marketing
     and publicity budgets it has also been difficult to identify specific costs across
     the Council associated with advertising supported publications and publications
     more generally. It is important that budget and spend details are readily
     available and this aspect of financial control needs strengthening.

2.14 Linked to a more central control of communications and publicity, there are
     merits in giving the central communications team an overview of publicity
     budgets throughout the Council. For example budgets could be drawn together
     and Departmental publicity initiatives corporately signed off before expenditure.
     Different models could be considered – for example in another London Borough
     a cross Council officer Panel , advised by the Communications Manager,
     reviews „bids‟ for resourcing and recommends against budget. In this way
     Departmental officers would need the team‟s authorisation and approval of
     publications before expenditure and the team would get a firm handle on all
     publications emanating from the Council.

Recommendation 18
Budget and spend details for all costs associated with the production of publicity
should be readily available; and consideration should be given to the central
communications team having an overview of all publicity budgets within the Council.

Bromley Knowledge Website

2.15 The Bromley Knowledge team should be congratulated for developments made
     to the Bromley Knowledge Website – particularly in receiving transactional
     status recognition in the Socitem report “Better Connected”




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Recommendation 19
Officers are to be commended for receiving transactional status recognition in the
Socitem report “Better Connected” and measures should be fully supported to:

                 increase electronic transactions;

                 ensure that all information material is published electronically through the
                  Bromley Knowledge website in the first instance;

                 apply the principles of sound information management to Council
                  communications
.




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3.          BACKGROUND

Importance of good communications

3.1               Effective two-way communications with local people and organisations is
                  essential to effective local government. It relates to the Council‟s role as a
                  community leader, to achieving increased customer focus, and supporting
                  local democracy through increasing local knowledge and accountability for
                  service delivery.

3.2               Local and national research has shown that good communication by councils
                  is the prime driver of residents‟ satisfaction. It is easy to give lip service to the
                  importance of good communication. It is more difficult to incorporate
                  communication thinking in every project and activity of Bromley Council. Good
                  communicating ought to be understood as an intrinsic part of the Council‟s
                  service delivery, not as an add-on or as another competing task. At the same
                  time, communication cannot substitute or compensate for flaws in service
                  delivery.

3.3               In 2004/05 research, residents told the Council that they wanted information
                  on things directly affect them, such as events they can go to, what‟s
                  happening locally, details of Council services they need to know about and
                  details of where their money is being spent. Overall, 57% of those surveyed
                  said they felt very or fairly well informed and this was a similar level to the one
                  which emerged from the 2003 national BVPI User Satisfaction Survey.

Bromley Council‟s Communication Strategy, 2003

3.4               Following a review of communications undertaken in 2001/02, the former
                  Communications Manager was charged with bringing together a Council
                  communications strategy:

                         to develop stronger strategic forward planning;
                         to draw together communication and consultation initiatives;
                         to present a „whole Council‟ image.

3.5               Following the review the Council agreed that “each department would allocate
                  responsibilities for leading on communications and consultation planning to
                  clearly identified individuals” (Supporting the Modernised Council, February
                  2002) and the proposed communications strategy was based on a
                  commitment to make a devolved communications structure work. It was
                  intended that the communication strategy would:

                     establish communication as a strategic priority for Bromley Council;

                     develop and build good communication practice in all that the Council
                      does;

                     provide strong and practical guidance to all Bromley staff and councillors;
                      and



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                     be reflected in all departmental and portfolio communication plans, as well
                      as in service and business planning.

3.6               The Communications Strategy Group, with a membership drawn from officers
                  with a communications lead role within their department was established to
                  co-ordinate work and develop Portfolio communication strategies.

How communications are currently managed

3.7               Bromley Council is unusual among local authorities with its devolved
                  communication structure. Principal responsibility f or communication currently
                  lies with service managers, who are supported in some departments by
                  communications lead officers (all but one of whom have other roles). The
                  central team in the Chief Executive‟s Department provides both a strategic
                  lead and corporate support.

3.8               Recognising that it is impossible for the central communications team to have
                  an in depth knowledge of all outgoing materials and at the same time maintain
                  an overview of communications across the council, a Communications
                  Strategy Group, comprised of communications team members and
                  communications lead officers set about improving the position. Accordingly,
                  priorities were drawn up in Autumn 2004 for two reviews to help address the
                  difficulties.

3.9               However in the intervening period a number of factors have influenced
                  progress of both reviews. Firstly, the central communications team changed
                  in its structure and make up. The former Communications Manager and the
                  Communications Officer responsible for the Community Safety portfolio both
                  left and were replaced and a Communications Officer responsible for both the
                  SCHH and CYP portfolios (a new, combined post approved by Executive in
                  July 2004) took up post in December 2004.          This led to a break in the
                  progress of the reviews, but also brought a fresh perspective to them.

3.10              In June 2005 the Communications team assumed responsibility for an
                  expanded Community Safety and Leisure portfolio communications taking on
                  Parks and Leisure, Libraries, Museums and Registrars, all of which had been
                  virtually unsupported since Bromley Mytime was formed.                  The
                  Communications Strategy Group has also stood down and overview is now
                  undertaken by the Customer Access Programme Board.Key publications

 3.11 The A-Z Essential Guide is a factual publication providing an alphabetical
      listing and designed to be retained for a period of at least two years. Co-
      ordinated by the central communications team, past editions have proved
      invaluable to residents, libraries, organisations and staff.  In the 2004/05
      research, residents complimented its layout and content seeing it as a source
      of contact details and information on Council services. They also felt it
      communicated a strong “value for money” message through the range of
      services provided and 72% felt that the A-Z was an effective way to
      communicate with them.




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3.12              In June 2005 a new A-Z edition was distributed to residents across the
                  borough via the Bromley Extra newspaper. The most popular elements of the
                  previous design were retained while also badging the guide more strongly as
                  a Bromley Council publication and expanding the list of useful non-council
                  numbers. E-services were also highlighted to encourage more online
                  communications.

3.13              Bromley has no regular magazine which goes to residents but a monthly one-
                  page feature page is placed in the News Shopper free newspaper, called
                  Borough Briefing. The page is also on display at Council offices, libraries and
                  elsewhere. The 2004/05 research indicated that just over half of residents
                  (54%) were aware of Borough Briefing in the News Shopper with 42% of all
                  residents saying that they read it at least sometimes.

3.14              The Communications team have worked to turn Borough Briefing into a more
                  visually appealing and focused read with:

                     A new, less heavy but still distinctly Bromley masthead;

                     A clearer layout with greater use of white space, more select use of
                      photography and the introduction of fact file style boxes; and

                     A clear lead story, along with a reduced number of additional articles
                      written in a more reader friendly style.

                  Each issue is now more strongly themed around one or more of the Building a
                  Better Bromley strands and the section on council meetings has been
                  expanded to incorporate further accessibility information.

3.15              The News Shopper remains Bromley‟s most widely read local paper (74%),
                  endorsing its choice for Borough Briefing and distribution has been increased
                  to include medical centres, doctors‟ surgeries and police stations. Recently
                  individual editions of Borough Briefing have been increased in size to a
                  double spread and in some cases run across other papers. This will extend
                  reach and further distribution will include hospitals and supermarkets.

3.16              Waste and Recycling News, includes details of waste collection dates and
                  recycling issues and is delivered to all households in the borough twice a
                  year. In the 2004/05 research, 57% of residents said they read at least some
                  of it and a third said they had kept it. The publication was viewed positively,
                  with residents liking its layout (easy to read) and subject matter (both the
                  general theme of recycling and the specific articles).

3.17              Making a Difference summarises the Council‟s Performance Plan reporting on
                  progress and priorities for the coming year by the end of March. Last year‟s
                  research indicated that residents would prefer a more balanced presentation,
                  which could be seen as a more honest and truthful reflection leading to it
                  being taken more seriously by residents.         Accordingly, the current Plan
                  summary is a more simple and eye catching design and streamlines the
                  content presenting it in a more digestible format.



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3.18              Council Tax Explained is delivered to every household with the annual bill and
                  comprises and advertised supported fold out wall planner, which on the front
                  explains how residents‟ council tax bill is made up for the year. Last year‟s
                  research indicated concerns about its layout (fold out format was thought too
                  cumbersome, and the font size too small) and content (too many adverts, wall
                  chart not wanted and a perception of too much detail which is exacerbated by
                  the format) and the current format and content has been reviewed (bearing in
                  mind budget and postage thresholds, statutory obligations and key
                  messages).

3.19              Know Your Councillors provides details of all ward councillors and was last
                  distributed as an insert within the News Shopper. From the 2004/05 research
                  residents felt that too many of the pages are given to advertising (in some
                  cases repeated) and suggested that the information about councillors could
                  be included in the A to Z, and condensed on to a one page format.

3.20              The central team also produces Update, mailed with ancillary leaflets, every
                  two months for over 400 residents‟ associations and other organisations.

3.21              In addition to the corporate publications for external audiences above, various
                  departments and divisions produce a wide range of booklets, leaflets and
                  publicity materials and in addition to the corporate publications mentioned in
                  this report the central communications team also have responsibility for the
                  media service for six out of seven portfolios, corporate internal
                  communications, events such as public meetings and major consultation
                  campaigns (Bromley Area Action Plan, etc)

Legal considerations

3.22              Bromley Council is bound by the Government‟s Code of Conduct on Publicity
                  in all its work. The Local Government Act 1986 defines „publicity‟ as „any
                  communication, in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or to a
                  section of the public‟ (section 6).

3.23              The Code states that councils‟ publicity should:

                     be cost effective and justifiable;

                     not duplicate other available information;

                     be informative, balanced and accurate;

                     set out reasons (not just slogans) for councils‟ views;

                     not promote individual politicians (except where they have a formal role
                      such as a member of the Executive or chairman of a Policy Development
                      and Scrutiny Committee);

                     not be open to the charge of being party political.




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3.24              As well as the Government‟s Code of Conduct, local authorities are subject to
                  other statutory regulations that relate to communication and consultation. For
                  example, an Annual Report and Statement of Accounts, must be published
                  and a summary of the Best Value Performance Plan must be published and
                  made widely available.




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4.                EVIDENCE AND CONCLUSIONS

Distribution of key corporate publications

4.1               Significant effort has been applied to ensuring that all areas receive key
                  publications including coverage through the free press.

4.2               A difficulty is that not all areas receive free newspapers and the Working Party
                  had concerns about using local newspapers to distribute corporate
                  publications. Additionally leaflets are often binned and a newspaper is the
                  major document capturing attention rather than the leaflets inside.

4.3               The Working Party have therefore considered other possible means of
                  distributing key information, all of which have significant cost implications.

Council Magazine

4.4               Borough Briefing was introduced so that Council messages could reach
                  residents in a way that we can control, but using a channel that we know is
                  heavily used and valued.

4.5               The Working Party noted comments in a report to the former Strategy and
                  Resources PDS Committee in December 2003. Based on research findings
                  the report suggested that a significant proportion of Bromley residents
                  favoured using existing communication channels rather than a Council
                  magazine. From information provided by eight London Boroughs the report
                  also highlighted estimated magazine costs of between £130,000 and
                  £160,000 annually (including staff costs, advertising income and publications)
                  with start-up costs of around £50,000. Sustaining a steady supply of general
                  interest features for residents from departments might also be challenging
                  after the initial issues and in some cases the Working Party noted that topical
                  features might be difficult to provide in view of publication timing.

4.6               In view of the above concerns the Working Party suggests an annual
                  publication as an alternative to a Council magazine. This has attractions. It
                  could take the form of a slightly expanded A to Z of Council Services with
                  essential information about Council services and perhaps some other key
                  information. But to fold and mail out an A-Z publication to all residents with
                  the annual Council Tax demand would cost nearly £50,000 excluding
                  production costs (and more if it was done separately) and would mean that if
                  this is pursued other publications would have to cease e.g. Borough Briefing,
                  In Touch, Customer Service Handbook. Alternatively, the Communications
                  team resourcing would need to be significantly increased to meet the extra
                  staff demands and extra production and distribution costs.

4.7               The Working Party gave serious thought to distributing an Annual Publication
                  with the Annual Council Tax demand (and Business rate equivalent). But
                  there are complications not least of which is the pressure to keep up with
                  Council Tax deadlines and there is no room for slippage and with a small
                  communications team working to capacity on many busy demands at that




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                  time of year, the risk of slippage in any publication production is a significant
                  consideration.

How others compare

4.8               Eleven authorities were approached via an email questionnaire to establish
                  their levels of investment in communications in relation to Bromley‟s. Bexley,
                  Croydon, Greenwich, Kensington & Chelsea, Lewisham, Richmond and
                  Westminster responded.

4.9               While the results make interesting reading they need to be treated with a lot of
                  caution - communications means and covers different things at different
                  authorities and for reasons explained elsewhere in this report it is difficult to
                  identify publicity costs at Bromley and we can only get a handle on the central
                  budget.

4.10              Bearing this in mind it is worth looking at for example contrasts between
                  Westminster and Bromley in terms of scale – their £1.5m vs. our £75k central
                  'operational' spend, and their 20 plus staff vs Bromley‟s 5 or 6 – or Lewisham
                  with £940k and a central team of nine plus others out in departments.
                  Meanwhile, Kensington & Chelsea spend approximately £275k centrally
                  (without what gets spent across the council) and has a core team of eight plus
                  two or three people on secondment at any one time. Croydon spend £170k
                  alone on Croydon Reports.

4.11              In terms of measures, Bromley scored 55% for how well informed residents
                  feel in the 2003 BVPI survey; Lewisham scored less then (51%) and
                  Westminster got 61%. Although the latter gap is statistically significant, the
                  margin of error for this question would be around +/- 3-4%, so Westminster
                  might well have expected to see a greater gap for their comparatively higher
                  investment.

4.12              In view of the above the Working Party felt that Bromley‟s Communication
                  Team was particularly effective in comparison with a number of other
                  authorities whose staffing and resources were significantly greater than
                  Bromley‟s.

Council Letters

4.13              Letters from Council departments should be easy to read with messages
                  clearly communicated. Critical publications had in the past been referred to
                  the Plain Language Commission for advice; a review needed to take place of
                  others that should be put through this process and the Working Party wished
                  to explore whether key standard letters should be sent to the Plain Language
                  Commission for editing. A corporate template is also suggested for Council
                  documents and included as a PC toolbar for all officers to improve layout for
                  individually generated letters.

4.14              The Working Party was also informed of the activities which the Council had
                  undertaken to promote plain language as part of its overall customer service.
                  Original and revised versions of standard letters (which had been changed


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                  into plain language for National Customer Service Week) were circulated and
                  the Working Party was impressed by the benefits of the process.

Centralising Communication team staff

4.15              To meet the branding objectives, corporate ownership of the design and
                  branding of Council publications is necessary but the Working Party felt that
                  this would be most easily achieved if all communication staff were located in
                  one central team (i.e. within the Chief Executive‟s Department) and meeting
                  the requirements of Portfolio Communications Plans. This is a radical
                  proposal and it is recognised that there would be a formidable analysis
                  process to follow this through as there is only one other Communications
                  Officer in the Council with a job description or skills set comparable with the
                  central team (and even in this case the officer concerned provides support for
                  other work and is in turn supported by others) with the remaining
                  communications activity forming a small part of a lot of individual jobs. The
                  working Party‟s thoughts on centralising the communications team is also
                  linked to a central overview of publicity budgets considered elsewhere in this
                  report.

4.16              The Working Party also felt that consideration should be given to moving the
                  Design Studio to the Chief Executive‟s Department but if this were not
                  possible given the operational nature of the Studio‟s work, then there should
                  continue to be a close working partnership between the Design Studio and
                  central communications team.

Design Studio

4.17              Savings will be achieved now that the Design Studio (formerly the Promotion
                  and Design Section) is no longer functioning on a trading account. As design
                  services are now free of charge at the point of commissioning to all parts of
                  the Council, it is important to promote the Design Studio within a corporate
                  structure which will enable it to cope with the expected additional demand for
                  services.

4.18              A strong in-house design service brings significant “added value” through:

                 knowledge of corporate design standards and “house” styles;

                 understanding of the Council‟s corporate priorities, allowing staff to produce
                  sympathetic design concepts;

                 accessibility and convenience for clients through its on-site location and
                  knowledge of customers;

                 speed of turnaround and delivery, and ability to prioritise work, which is of
                  particular corporate significance.

4.19              In all but exceptional cases Departments should therefore use the Design
                  Studio to design all publications, adverts, flyers, etc to help secure a corporate
                  look for all publicity.


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4.20              Departments should also use the Design Studio to reduce costs. Currently,
                  service managers still have a choice on where they procure promotional
                  literature and if they choose to use an external provider, the council effectively
                  pays twice for the service due to much of the costs for the Promotion &
                  Design Service being fixed in nature i.e. permanent salaried staff.

4.21              There is however dangers of clients increasing their demands unnecessarily
                  now that the Design Studio is no longer functioning on a trading account. e.g.
                  going for full colour or highly designed documents and including such items as
                  high volume photography and montage of pictures without a strong business
                  case. So it is therefore important that those commissioning work always seek
                  appropriate advice.

Publicity Costs

4.22              A local authority is required to keep a separate account of all of its publicity
                  expenditure and a statement on publicity expenditure is included as a
                  disclosure note in the Council's Statement of Accounts.

4.23              However, only a proportion of the Communications service is shown under
                  Bromley‟s publicity statement and it is currently difficult to identify the
                  Council‟s overall spend on publications. Precise spend within departments is
                  unclear; specific budgets are lacking and expenditure can be recorded against
                  a number of possible budget codes. This is unsatisfactory and it is important
                  that budget and spend details are readily available at all times.

4.24              To rectify this consideration should be given to the central communications
                  team having overview of publicity budgets throughout the Council. This would
                  afford a central control of publicity costs and greatly assist the
                  communications team ensure a corporate branding on all publicity.
                  Departmental officers would need the team‟s approval of publications before
                  expenditure from budgets could be authorised. Various options could be
                  considered to achieve the central overview and in one London Borough a
                  cross Council officer Panel assesses resource bids for publications against
                  budget and is advised by the Communications Manager.

4.25              Costs that are available indicate that in 2004/05 publicity expenditure
                  amounted to £1,035,106 (£906,547 in 2003/04) and includes £135,460 in
                  respect of providing a press and public relations service (£137,150 in
                  2003/04) and £665,790 (£518,397 in 2003/04) relating to recruitment
                  advertising. Other expenditure relates to production of publications, leaflets,
                  information, maps, bulletins etc. A breakdown of expenditure recharged
                  through the Promotion and Design service is shown at Appendix 1 with over
                  76% of work carried out for internal customers being promotional in nature.

4.26              Appendix 2 provides tables giving further analysis of the total „Other
                  Advertising‟ and „Recruitment Advertising Costs‟ broken down by Department.

Advertising supported Publications




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4.27              Central control over advertising supported publications is suggested to
                  prevent problems associated with individual departments negotiating directly
                  with companies.

4.28              It is also necessary to identify costs in Service Departments associated with
                  advertising supported publications and the process of financial control needs
                  strengthening to identify such costs (see above).

4.29              Furthermore, the control of and use of the Council logo should be examined to
                  ensure as far as possible that it is only associated with sound organisations.

Bromley Knowledge Website

4.30              Bromley Knowledge is the corporate information management team for the
                  Council with overall responsibility for the website. In the last 12 months, the
                  team has implemented a new content management system and launched a
                  new website in September 2005. By November 2005, an independent ODPM
                  report researching all local authority websites placed Bromley‟s site as joint
                  first in London for reliability. This constitutes a complete turn-around from the
                  former, failing website and builds on the Plain English accreditation gained in
                  the previous year. The website, and shortly intranet, is used to pioneer and
                  test best practice in information management that will be delivered by the
                  Corporate Information Management Strategy across the Council later in the
                  year.

4.31              Work in progress includes:

                 Developing an accessible website for all, for example providing information
                  that can be increased in size or read by screen-readers for customers who
                  may have a visual impairment.

                 Establishing genuine collaborative working, for example using SharePoint,
                  reviewing web content management, drafting the Corporate Information
                  Management Strategy and establishing Information Governance.

                 Raising the profile and usage of the website as an information and customer
                  service channel amongst Council staff and members.

4.32              Future ambitions for the BK website include:

                 Making the website the first point of customer contact – current usage figures
                  and research demonstrate that the website is in a very strong position to be
                  fully developed into a self-service channel for customers.

                 Increase accessibility and usability based on customer requirements and best
                  practice e.g. ensuring the website is equally usable for customers with
                  physical and learning disabilities.

                 Actively consulting with customers by developing online consultation e.g. the
                  Bromley Town Centre Consultation.



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                 Increasing the number of services delivered through the website e.g. online
                  school admissions.

                 Extending the reach of the website e.g. by developing the web content and
                  links available on our kiosks and Local Links in libraries.

                 Supporting implementation of the corporate information management
                  standards e.g. record and document management.

Packaging information

4.33              The majority of Council publications are still produced service by service, with
                  the Communications team using the portfolio communications plans to identify
                  these, reduce duplication of effort, encourage sharing of resources and
                  improve accessibility by better packaging or information.                   The
                  Communications team regularly package information for inclusion in core
                  corporate publications including the A-Z Guide to Council Services, Borough
                  Briefing and UPDATE externally (as well as INFORM and In Touch internally).
                  Information can be packaged in a variety of ways – by theme, lifestage or
                  event and among current print examples in circulation is the “Green guide”,
                  “Bromley Adult Care Directory” and “Welcome to Bromley”.




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Appendix 1

A breakdown of expenditure recharged through the Promotion and Design service is
shown below


                  Expenditure Recorded on Promotion and Design Account 2001-2005
                            (ignores WIP adjusted on published accounts)
                                  2001-2002        2002-2003*       2003-2004        2004-2005
                                   £       %           £    %        £       %        £       %
External Organisations            88,700   25     109,200   28 106,900       30     113,673   27
Chief Executive‟s                 60,300   17      62,400   16      74,800   21      67,362   16
LADS                               7,100      2     7,800       2   10,700      3    21,051      5
Resources                         17,800      5    11,700       3    3,600      1     4,210      1
Environmental                     46,200   13      78,000   20      60,600   17     147,354   35
Social Services                   24,900      7    23,400       6   39,200   11      33,681      8
Education                         24,900      7    23,400       6   24,900      7    29,471      7
Leisure (prior to Trust)          85,300   24      74,100   19      35,600   10       4,210      1
Total                            355,200   100    390,000   100 356,300 100         421,010   100




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Appendix 2

Analysis of the total „Other Advertising‟ and „Recruitment Advertising Costs‟ broken
down by Department

                                Other Advertising
                                    2003-2004                     2004-2005
                              Actual            Budget       Actual         Budget
Corporate                         5,440             5400        3,620              5560
Environmental                    19,205            10980       13,070             21300
Social Services                        0                 0            0               0
Education                        42,310            11170       40,310             21720
Leisure (prior to Trust)          4,240             4050        7,400              5350
Total                            71,195           31,600       64,400             53,930




                             Recruitment Advertising
                                                                  2005-2006
                                    2004-2005
                                                                   (not final)
                              Actual            Budget       Actual         Budget
Corporate                       147,140            47550      127,460             47750
Environmental                    78,030            30620       64,970             42270
Social Services                 345,710           114100      300,260            101770
Education                        63,150            10850       43,730             26310
Leisure                          31,760            18590       18,830             20540
Total                           665,790          221,710      555,250            238,640




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Appendix 3

EVIDENCE CONSIDERED AND MEETINGS HELD

1.          Reports and other documents provided specifically for Working Party
            meetings

            “Getting our message across in plain language” - report to Working Group
            Meeting 7th December 2005.

            “Managing our Image - the role of the Design Studio and Communications” -
            report to Working Group Meeting 7th December 2005.

            “Getting our message across - maximising our reach” - report to Working Group
            Meeting, 1st February 2006.

            “There is no such thing as a free publication” - report to Working Group
            Meeting, 1st February 2006.

            “Learning from others - bench marking” - report to Working Group Meeting, 1st
            February 2006.

            “Investment in communications comparison” – information to Working Group
            Meeting, 1st February 2006.

            Data on communications/public relations/marketing staff and budgets for
            various authorities - report to Working Group Meeting, 1 st February 2006.

            Communications Structure Charts for Kensington and Chelsea and Lewisham
            Authorities for Working Group Meeting, 1st February 2006.

            A listing of corporate publications, January 2005 for Working Group Meeting, 1 st
            February 2006.

            “Information to be given via the Communications Strategy Group by those
            commissioning advertising - supported publications” – document to Working
            Group Meeting, 1st February 2006.

            “Transforming Communications and Customer Service - The Bromley
            Knowledge website” - report to Working Group Meeting, 2 nd March 2006.

            “Getting our message across - packaging of information” - report to Working
            Group Meeting, 27th March 2006.




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2.          Other documents made available to the Committee

            “Communication Strategy” – Committee Report to Strategy and Resources
            Portfolio Holder, 11th March 2003.

            Communication Strategy document, March 2003.

            “Communication Strategy” - Committee Report to Strategy and Resources
            Portfolio Holder, 11th June 2003.

            “Communication Strategy” - Committee Report to Strategy and Resources
            Portfolio Holder, 16th July 2003.

            “Enhancing the Council‟s Communications” – Committee Report to Strategy
            and Resources PDS Committee, 8 th December 2003.

            “Communication Strategy Progress” - Committee Report to Strategy and
            Resources PDS Committee, 24th October 2004.

            “The Mori General Satisfaction Survey - How does it help us meet our
            residents‟ expectations?” - Report of Working Party to the Strategy and
            Resources PDS Committee.

            Research Report on Customer Access for the London Borough of Bromley
            carried out by RBA Research Limited, February 2005.

            Research Report on Communications Research carried out for the London
            Borough of Bromley by RBA Research Limited, February 2005.

            “Communication and Customer Access Research” - Committee Report to
            Strategy and Communications PDS Committee, 16th June 2005.

            “Communications Strategy Update” - Committee Report to Strategy and
            Communications Portfolio Holder, 15th September 2005.

            “Local Priorities - Feedback on public consultation” - Committee Report to
            Executive, 12th December 2005.

            “General Satisfaction Survey 2005 Findings” - Committee Report to Strategy
            and Communications PDS Committee, 19th January 2006.


3.          Meetings held

            13th October 2005
            7th December 2005
            1st February 2006
            2nd March 2006
            27th March 2006




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