Crossroads – checking in or checking out

which way?

We are at a crossroads. On one hand austerity continues to bite very deeply. Cash strapped Northamptonshire is resigned to being split into two “unitary authorities”. Nor is Northants alone. East Sussex says it is down to the basics and Barnet and Cornwall cannot be far behind. Although nationally employment is at its highest with only 1 in 25 Britons now unemployed - the lowest for the last 25 years, wages have stagnated. Unemployment ruins lives and leads to increasing numbers of people with worrying levels of debt and further pressure on local councils to act. Something many charities have increasingly flagged.

Brexit- hard or soft. Your choice - but both offer unprecedented opportunities and risks. The LGA need to work with national Government to calm some of the rhetoric coming from Westminster. I can still remember (just) council’s being called in to help the emergency services two decades ago. Today there is one big difference. Last time councils had money to throw at the problem but now they are skint. The coffers are empty. There will be opportunities. Many northern communities suffering under austerity may be able to grab increasing slice of the UK economy and wider trade may benefit smaller businesses.

The media are in a constant state of flux. The behaviour of listeners is changing. The BBC’s flag ship “Today Programme” has lost over 800,000 listeners in the last 12 months as it has failed to adapt. The BBC’s foolhardy pursuit of Cliff Richard has dented public confidence. Kamal Ahmed, previously the political editor of the Observer has been tasked with helping the Corporation sharpen up its act. So - expect changes!GDPR previously considered a threat is a real opportunity to use data more responsibly and creatively to deliver more personalised services. It will not be easy as 56% of people in a recent survey want more control over their personal data with 7 out of 10 wanting to be forgotten.

Social media dominates the airwaves and sets the agenda. Local people with a passion for change can galvanise public opinion in a way never previously envisaged and halt or at least delay schemes. Local residents in Northamptonshire have added to the council’s pain by winning the backing of a judge who has declared the Council’s plans to close 21 libraries as unlawful. Success will give groups around the country more heart.

Although the challenges have never been greater, nor have the opportunities. I have worked with many great officers and politicians who really care and have a passion but here’s the rub…. In such a rapidly changing world- local government is having to cut services and focus on income raising. The inhouse resources are being stretched. The overworked modern marketeer and communications processional in local government needs to be part artist, part designer part mathematician, part scientist and part entrepreneur. Able to listen to everything and see the future. A tough ask.

It is for this reason that I have chosen this time to start Ten Bears marketing at this time to provides the specialist support to the public sector. As specialists we can focus on the changing role of marketing, monitor the changes and assist in-house teams. We can also assist when it’s all hand to the pump during a crisis. Our focus is narrower, so we can read many things to avoid you having to do so.

I will be blogging and commenting on the things I see are important, new ideas and new ways of thinking. I would love to get into a wider debate as this can only be good for our industry

Jonathan Mercer

Ten Bears Marketing