In 2001, the national Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity was amended to include changes in council constitutions introduced by the Local Government Act 2000. These amendments were approved by Parliament and a new Code was issued. Local authorities are required to 'have regard to the provisions' of this Code in the way they approach communication.
Principles and Protocols - The Cabinet
The Council undertakes to maintain a full and steady flow of information to the media so as to ensure:
- continued public awareness of the services provided by the authority and the functions it performs;
- advance and ongoing publicity on matters of public interest;
- those affected by the Council's decisions, policies and priorities are given the information to understand them and to have a real and informed say about them.
The principle of executive decision-making and accountability will be reflected in the Council's media liaison arrangements. In particular:
- media statements on Cabinet decisions will be made by an appropriate Cabinet member or issued on behalf of the entire Cabinet;
- interviews on Cabinet decisions will only be given by the appropriate member of the Cabinet;
- relevant support, advice and training will be made available to the Cabinet to enable them to play a proactive role in presenting issues to the media, explaining their work and managing controversial issues covered by the media
- where the press office is asked to draft press releases or letters on behalf of the Cabinet, such releases/letters will be of a factual nature and will contain nothing that could be construed as politically-motivated or biased;
- all official Cabinet press releases will be issued by the Communications Team in the appropriate format.
Principles and Protocols - Policy and Scrutiny Panels
The work of the Policy and Scrutiny Panels is an important and integral part of the new political arrangements for the purposes of media liaison. In particular:
- media statements and interviews on Policy and Scrutiny matters will be made by the Chair of the relevant panel subject to the formal agreement of the Panel members;
- Chairs of Policy and Scrutiny Panels will be offered relevant support, advice and training to enable them to play a proactive role in presenting issues to the media and explaining their work;
- where the Communications Team is asked to draft press releases/statements on behalf of a Policy and Scrutiny Panel, such releases/statements will be of a factual nature and will contain nothing that could be construed as politically-motivated or biased;
- all official Policy and Scrutiny Panel press releases will be issued by the Communications Team in the appropriate format.
Principles and Protocols - Ward Councillors
The work of local councillors will be recognised as an important contributor to the Council's community leadership role. In particular:
- advice will be available to local councillors in promoting local issues through the media - with training made available;
- whilst it is legitimate for the Council to publicise local issues, the Council will not involve itself in any publicity which 'personalises' such issues and thereby appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party.
Principles and Protocols - Council
The continuing role of Council will also be recognised in the Council's communication with the Media. In particular:
- media statements on policy and other matters which are the remit of Council (other than the simple reporting of decisions taken) will be made by the group leaders
- media enquiries on such matters will be referred to the group leaders
- relevant and appropriate support, advice and training will be made available to group leaders to enable them to deal effectively with the media.
- the Chairman of the Council will be supported in making best use of the media to promote his or her special role as ambassador for the Council.
Principles and Protocols - Regulatory Committees
The work of regulatory committees (planning, licensing etc) is acknowledged as a vital element of council business, and key decisions and issues for decision will be publicised in consultation with the relevant Chair and Director.
Principles and Protocols - Officers
The general policy of the Council will continue to be one of openness and accessibility towards the media. Although officers will not be allowed to comment to the media on Cabinet decisions, nominated officers may speak to the media within clearly defined parameters on operational and other matters. These parameters are:
- where they have been specifically delegated to speak to the media by the relevant Cabinet Member or Chair of the relevant Policy and Scrutiny Panel;
- to clarify specific points with reference to officer reports submitted for consideration to Cabinet, Policy and Scrutiny Panels, Full Council or regulatory committees;
- to explain the operational detail of decisions and policies they are implementing;
- to explain issues pertaining to the exercise of professional judgement;
- only nominated officers will speak to the media.
The Council's Communication Team
Media liaison will normally be carried out via the Council's Communications team or nominated officers with specific media liaison responsibilities.
- All the Council's media contact will be professionally managed to meet the communication needs of the Council and of the media.
- Support, advice and training will be available with the aim of making continuous improvement in the quality of the Council's media output and response.
- Media releases will be issued by the Communications Team in the appropriate format.
- Incoming enquiries from the media will be fielded either by the Communications Team or directed to the nominated divisional spokesperson who will respond on behalf of the Council where appropriate.
Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity
Underpinning all aspects of this protocol is the general principal, enshrined in Government legislation that the Council will not involve itself in any publicity which appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party.