Stephen Barker: Nottingham pioneers cost-cutting council communication tool

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We’re all trying to find ways of doing more with less. Most councils like ours were doing it well before we found ourselves operating in austerity Britain.

These tough times mean it's as important as ever to work hard to ensure our citizens are well informed about the many services we provide for them and how they can access them.

But it’s also more important than ever that we have an answer for those people who question the value of what councils spend on communications.

That’s why, on top of substantial savings we have made and are making on Nottingham City Council’s communications and marketing spend, it’s timely that we have developed an innovative online tool to help other councils make significant savings too.

We’re launching Portfolio, a web portal that allows public sector organisations to share marketing materials. Councils and other public authorities can sign up to it for free and save money by buying ready-made, proven marketing campaigns. It also enables them to make money by uploading and selling their own designs.

It stands to reason that public bodies up and down the country will be echoing each other’s campaigns. For example, Foster Care Fortnight which is currently underway is a national initiative taken up by councils to increase the number of foster carers. With Portfolio, if Nottingham City Council has uploaded its Foster Care Fortnight artwork, any other council could choose to use it instead of spending the time and money devising their own campaign.

The savings on design costs are expected to be over 50% - an attractive prospect for any public sector organisation in the current climate.

We’re particularly pleased to be launching this at the LG Communications Academy, which Nottingham is hosting on May 25-27 this year. We’ve so far had encouraging feedback from some of our counterparts around the country, as well as from the design industry, and I fully expect that communications colleagues from councils around the country who are converging on Nottingham for the Academy will be able to see the benefits of Portfolio.

This is a great example of Nottingham City Council leading the way for councils to share back-office functions – something the Government is keen to see. A number of local authorities have already signed up to the website, and as more and more people start to use it, the library of artwork will grow and there is bound to be something to interest everyone.

The website is available at and features a library of marketing campaigns which are available to buy and instantly download. I would encourage any councils, health partners, fire and police authorities to take a look, upload their own marketing campaigns now and see how they can continue to provide excellent communications and marketing at a fraction of the cost.

Posted on 24th May 2011