290: A government announcement is only the start of the hard work
When any government announcement is made there can be a tendency to think that everything has been resolved. This is normally far from the case. Instead, it should be the time when the really hard work starts.
Even those celebrating a government announcement should appreciate that there remains work to do. An official announcement may give the go-ahead the principals involved but there is still a whole of detail to be worked through. Equally, for those opposing a measure there is still plenty to play for. The fight, for those on either side, will still go on. In other words, do not stop your engagement in the face of any announcement.
When the Chancellor stood up recently to deliver the spending review, he announced a whole swath of new policies. But as is often the case with such big set piece occasions, the detail comes later. The detail isn’t often released on the day or even the weeks that follow, it can be months later. And that detail may only be to signal consultation on an issue.
So a key action for public affairs is to check the documents. Any government announcement, let alone a budget or spending review, has to be looked at in detail. That means going through the documents rather than just relying on what has been said in the speech or the media release. Do not think that you are alone in this. The media, especially the specialist trade press, are of real importance as they do a lot of the hard work in shifting through things. But also your trade or membership bodies will be doing this as well. That doesn’t replace your own efforts but it does provide useful pointers and back-ups.
Take the example of the Levelling Up Fund that the Chancellor announced. Given the experience from previous pots of money made available to local government or LEPs, the chances are that there will be a bidding process and that central government will make any decisions. So there is a lot still to be worked out and the potential need for engagement to happen alongside any bids. It will certainly call for a strong, single local voice with politicians, businesses and others coming together to support any bid.
But with any government announcement consider:
- what the immediate next steps likely to be – that will help identify potential audiences;
- whether you have engaged with the civil servants who will know have to work up the detail;
- what the likely timetable will be and whether you are looking at further consultations, legislation etc;
- whether a media / social media approach may be in order;
- if activity across Parliament should be part of the plan; and
- if you need to start pulling together a wider coalition to try to engage in a joint effort on the issue.
Government never has all the answers and no-one should make the mistake of believing that just because an announcement is made that there is a huge amount of depth or more advanced thinking. Some announcements are made simply to grab headlines and show that action is being taken. So never make assumptions and use an announcement as an opportunity for engagement.