2009 CPSO Annual Lecture
This lecture was delivered by David Walker, Managing Director of Communications and Public reporting at the Audit Commission, an independent watchdog on the efficiency of local public services. He was the editor of Public, the Guardian’s monthly magazine for senior public managers and a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Analysis programme. David now chairs the communications and information committee of ESRC and is a trustee of the Nuffield Trust.
The lecture addresses the "cognitiive overload" implicit in many theories of democracy, especially those underpinning the empowerment ideas that have become fashionable in recent years. Why are our models of public understanding so primitive, conceptually and empirically? We know very little about how people access and use "civic" information yet erect large schemes of democratic regeneration and public service improvement on the back of them. the new "comprehensive performance assessment" regime being introduced by the Audit Commission in April 2009 will be explored as a case study. The conclusion will veer towards the need for segmentation of messages and audiences, accepting that could imply an elitist model for information.