2014 has certainly been an interesting year for those of us who toil away in public sector communications. On the political front, the Scottish Independence Referendum, the growth of UKIP and the general lack of faith in the political class all caused headlines and look likely to continue to do so well into 2015.
The Conservative and Labour parties must have been hoping that the No vote in Scotland would put the issue of independence to bed for a generation or more. Instead it has opened up several new cans of worms such as the issue of “English votes for English laws” and the unexpected growth of the SNP, now (in membership terms) the UK’s third largest political party.
For local government communications in particular, the biggest issue for many practitioners in 2014 was the stress of being expected to achieve greater results with fewer resources. Sadly, there is little sign of that situation getting any better. There is also the ongoing issue of Eric Pickles and his crusade to close down Council run newspapers.
In the media, many local newspapers closed for good, or ceased publishing print versions and moved to being online only. With many traditional media outlets struggling to maintain an audience there are real challenges for us to find the right medium to reach the right people.
Looking ahead, the first half of 2015 is likely to be dominated by the General Election which is scheduled for 7th May. In order to avoid being dragged into political controversy, public sector press officers will need to pay close attention to the code of conduct, particularly in the purdah period in the immediate run up to the poll. With the opinion polls predicting the end of the UK’s traditional two party system, another hung parliament seems the likeliest outcome.
The second half of 2015 will probably see us all having to come to terms with the outcome of the election. In any event, it seems unlikely that budgets and staffing levels in the public sector will increase, so we will just have to continue trying to do more with less.