Westco Blog: Is it time to think differently about how we deliver local authority comms?

CCN Blogs | 02 November 2022

How do you strengthen the connection between public services and our communities while reducing costs on communications?

It is an age-old question but one that is likely to be tested thoroughly in the coming years as we enter what many are dubbing Austerity V2.

Across many local government comms teams, the talk is of already of a cost reduction in the order of 20% in the next financial year alone.

The cost pressures come amid another challenge for comms folk – the acute scarcity of skills, particularly in areas like digital marketing and campaigns where the bright lights of cash rich private sector agencies are luring people away.

Now is the time to think differently about how communications is delivered… which should involve pooling resources and skills across multiple councils.

The concept is beginning to work in areas like campaign delivery. Local authorities face the same challenges: recruiting more social care workers and foster care workers, reducing recycling contamination, reducing carbon emissions, supporting people through the cost of living crisis, reducing hate crime. I could go on and on….

It therefore makes sense to share the cost of back-end campaign development on things like behaviour science strategy, digital platforms  and high-end content development – most of which can then be localised to ensure that the campaign still looks and feels local.

It isn’t just about sharing costs; it is also about sharing learning. There are 95 councils now sharing a common approach on foster care recruitment to the extent where they are able to share all of the data and insight about what work and doesn’t work.

It seems crazy to us that councils continue to do things in isolation, starting from scratch and with budgets too small to really make a dent.

Westco’s approach to our ‘Campaign Hub’ shows that councils do not have to rely on having lots of in-house marketing resources that are becoming increasingly difficult to find.

Potentially the same approach could easily be applied to have areas of planned work where a pool of centralised resources serving many councils would be better equipped to reduce content development cost. It would certainly be more cost effective than commissioning agencies ad-hoc or recruiting interim support.

There will always be a need for in-house communication resources to set local priorities, develop the work plan, commission/oversee work and respond manage day-to-day pressures. The role of Head of Communications is more important than ever to help navigate the choppy waters that determine our reputation and thus influence. However, in these times it makes sense to think about wrapping a supportive and cost-effective blanket around that team using pooled resources to help reduce overhead costs and introduce skills that are becoming increasingly hard to find.

Simon Jones

Director of Communications, Westco







Westco is an end-to-end communications, research and community engagement agency that has served local government for 20 years. Our communication reviews have helped more than 40 public sector bodies build trust, improve effectiveness and reduce cost. Contact simon@westcommunications.com for a chat.