Public relations is fundamental to modern, high-value and cost-effective local public services

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has spoken out in defence of local government investment in public relations and communications staff, after the TaxPayers’ Alliance called for a "crack down on this army of taxpayer-funded propagandists."

In a report published yesterday in the Press Gazette, followed up today in The Times, the Gazette revealed that Freedom of Information requests showed that 405 local and city councils employ 3,453 people in PR, communications and marketing positions.

Sarah Pinch FCIPR, CIPR President 2015
It should be of no surprise to anyone that such numbers of public relations and communications staff are employed by city and local councils, who provide frontline services to over 60 million people.

Each and every publicly funded authority has a responsibility to deliver a first class service to their communities. It is vital that residents understand what services are available to them and how to access them. In order to deliver this effectively, engaging in two-way open, honest and transparent dialogue must be managed through the expertise of professional and accountable public relations practitioners.

The Press Gazette and Taxpayers' Alliance have shown a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and role of a modern public relations team. The year is 2015, not 1985 - and PR simply does not only exist to serve the beck and call of the national, local and regional press. 

A modern public relations team has to work hard to reach their communities, whether through public events, public consultations, direct information provision or via social forms of media. PR has been at the core of consulting with communities in negotiating how vastly reduced local government budgets are spent, communicating these challenges internally with staff, and externally with the public they serve. On top of this, to save money across other departments, access to services is also moving online - all of this is managed by an effective communications team. The work that they undertake is frontline. It is not a nice to have, but a vital and central part of the role of local government.

I am particularly pleased to see a number of campaigns shortlisted in our national awards which highlight the value professional communicators bring to their local communities. From Coventry City Council's campaign to increase recruitment of social workers, to Kirklees Council work in challenging attitudes towards domestic violence and abuse; activities such as these are a fundamental part of delivering a modern, high-value and cost-effective, local public service.

We are proud of the work each and every public relations professional undertakes in local government to change attitudes, engage and listen to their local communities, and enable those in most need to access vital life-changing services.
Sarah Pinch FCIPR, CIPR President 2015
Notes to editors

Notes to editors

About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR is the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America. By size of turnover and number of individually registered members, we are the leading representative body for the PR profession and industry in Europe.

The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).

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Holly Lei Hou
Even though a simple average is not presenting the true staff number at each of the local and city councils, it is about 8.5 or 8 PR/communication/marketing staffs per council, and each PR/ communication/ marketing team provide services to in average approx. 0.15 million people. I wonder what is the trend and the reason for the number of these staff varying cross councils? Are larger councils having more of these staff, or councils facing tougher public having more, or it is determined by the budget of councils? In China it apparently is determined by development level and budget of cities and organizations that politically more important, economically more developed, and more international cities/ organizations have better homepages and online communication system with people, and the difference is obvious. And yes, in China the effort of governmental PR work is with low level of IT technology integration and therefore reach to the public is mainly depending on laborious work like visiting or calling for meetings.