Getting closer to citizens

Date of publication: May 9, 2004

Abstract:

Relationships between governing bodies and the people are fundamental, but have often been taken for granted. Over recent years in the United Kingdom, the policy and strategy laden world of local and regional government has been struggling to find ways of relating to and engaging with its publics. Considerable effort has been expended to 'connect with communities' by increasing communications to raise awareness of Councils' activities and service delivery - but with little demonstrable success. The problem of engaging with the community is particularly acute at local and regional level where there is not the strength and pride of nationality to create bonds between government and the governed. At local level there are tiered and overlapping identities, which form a quite complex matrix of (weaker) affinities. This paper looks at the task of forging relationships with citizens at the 'county' and regional level in the North West of England and describes a case study. The success of these initiatives is examined in terms of changing perceptions and by demonstrating the effects on the County Council's presence in the community. Evidence of success in developing public opinions comes from several sources detailed in the paper.

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