The Local Government Association - paid for by you and me through local councils' membership subs - have today launched one of the most ill-advised and inappropriate advertising campaigns since Gerald Ratner (who described his own jewellery firm's produce as "crap"). Here are two of their deligthful offerings, soon to be adorning a bus stop near you:
Apparently stung into this misguided action by our Council Spending Uncovered campaign, the LGA bills this as being intended to "repair [councils'] image problem". As that image is at least in part one of hectoring bodies that spend hundreds of millions of pounds on pointless advertising, this may not be the best way to go about it.
At the core of the campaign is a refusal on the part of councils to recognise that, in doubling council tax in a decade but cutting back or standing still with essential services, they have let people down. The campaign seems to be based on a failure to consider themselves as being at fault, but instead assuming people are too stupid to appreciate that their council are actually doing a great job. As an advertising drive, it is wasteful, offensive and counterproductive.
I took part in a discussion about this campaign last night on BBC Radio 5 Live. Amazingly, the LGA didn't have a press officer available to give the producer information about the campaign (they had to ring me to ask if I knew more about how many posters were being published), or an official spokesman to go on national radio to promote or even defend it. Instead, the discussion was between me and the very decent Cllr Patrick Karney of Manchester City Council, who seemed quite embarassed at this campaign being prosecuted on his behalf. He rightly pointed out that talk, spin and glossy posters are neither what people want or an effective way to change perceptions of local government. The only way to do that, he said, was action. If only the LGA would listen.