Birmingham’s blues – and how balance was the key to their comms

By LGcomms Chair Andy Allsopp

Just hours after Birmingham City Council announced it was issuing a Section 114 notice – having already frozen non-essential spending earlier in the summer – at least one academic was speculating that the authority, our largest council could be broken up.

Not an unusual kite to fly. Someone somewhere in academia or politics somewhere will suggest this whenever there’s a S114 or intervention.

Won’t happen though.

Birmingham might have failed to find a solution to its financial challenges, but the answer definitely isn’t reorganisation. In any case, there’s a price to change, and the council doesn’t have the cash.

And this is a council, a city, which is about so much more than services, as important as they are, and as difficult to reduce as they will be.

Brum may have hosted its last major event for a while – any more major sporting events, including the 2026 European Athletics Championships, will be doubtful – but it remains a unique, vibrant, economically vital place – a world city, in every sense.

The worst thing which could happen is that it somehow loses that sense of its place in the world.

That is a key challenge for its communicators, and their partners. The requirement is to develop an honest narrative about the inevitable reductions in services, but at the same time, continue to promote the city, its successes, its opportunities.

Council Leader John Cotton was right to state the city is still in a strong economic position. The harder bit will be the focus on services, which ones survive, and which ones don’t.

He is off to a solid start in his honest assessment of the position, realism about the difficulties of the challenge, but tinged with hope for the future. Bravo, BCC comms, for striking that balance.

Questions are already being asked about who will be next to declare. If it is on the cards at your council, you could do worse that look at the balance Birmingham struck in its initial communications, and the straightforward and effective nature of its delivery.

Cold comfort as it might be, there is now a growing body of experience in how to handle announcements like this, and a wealth of advice and experience available via LGcomms and others. You only have to ask for it.


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