Tony Ball on ‘A brand new council’

This article first appeared in the August edition of C’llr Magazine

Private companies know that good branding is crucial. Tony Ball, Leader of Basildon Council, argues that councils need to recognise the importance of having a defined brand that tells a clear story to local people.

In the new ‘age of austerity’ world of local government, it is more important than ever than councils work closer and harder with their communities. And to do this, we need to be clear on what their vision and priorities are and the promises they make to local people.

This is not about a new logo, nor just changing what we are doing. It is about being clearer about what we are doing and giving  more focus to our priorities.

At this years LGA conference, Sir Merrick Cockell warned that if something did not change, councils could be reduced to doing nothing by 2020 but collecting the rubbish and delivering adult social care.

To avoid this, we must prioritise, do it well and be very clear about it. We have to re-evaluate our relationship with local people – to make sure we work with them.

Basildon is building its brand inside out. What we say is our promise, and what we do impacts on what people say about us and  therefore our brand. Before developing a corporate vision and brand, as elected members we need to ask ourselves: What do we want to be known for?

We know we have massive challenges – the tide of funding has gone and it is unlikely to come back in for sometime, if at all. Basildon has an overall vision – to create opportunity which is underpinned by five  specific promises that relate to everything we will do for the next four years:

  • providing value for money;
  • getting the basics right;
  • demanding better public services;
  • supporting the local economy,
  • and transforming our  borough.

Basildon is in the heart of Essex, with a rich past of welcoming people from the East of London in search of a better life and better opportunities.That movement continues to this day and Basildon continues to be a place that offers opportunity.

We believe this is a strong story and essential for a council such as ours that wants to work with local people and do the best for its area.

The first of our promises are to provide value for money and do what we call getting the basics right. This is the day job and the minimum we are expected to do as a good local authority.

Our next promises are to support our local economy, and use our influence to see that better public services are delivered in areas such as policing, healthcare and particularly education.

Finally, we are committed to transforming our borough by regenerating town centres, using our planning powers to protect our greenbelt where possible, while ensuring the right number of new homes are built that people want to live in.

These are not empty words. We have no intention of breaking our promises and think creating opportunity and getting the basics right will pass what we call in Basildon the pub test – we think our people will get it.

By delivering on our promise local people will understand us and trust us – essential if they are to work with us and support us in the tough times ahead. And a clear story gives coherence, clarity and cuts through to everything we say, so vital in a media rich age when we are all competing just to be heard.

Cllr Tony Ball was shortlisted fro ‘Leader of the Year’ at the 2012 LGiU C’llr Achievement Awards.