Even being a prolific user of Twitter, Facebook and having my own website to engage with residents and the wider community I do frequently reflect as to how effective these communications are and whether I don’t do enough to engage with those who do not use social media.
Leaflets can be hit and miss and I have used both political ones and those personal messages printed on my own printer; these latter ones do seem to get a higher response rate for some reason. However, leaflet delivery is time intensive and I question its overall effectiveness (this might have something to do with my titanium knees and hips).
The need for a councillor surgery?
I have tried this by using Dickens Heath library for one year and met with a poor response (ok, no response). This may have been down to poor advertising and choosing a Thursday morning. However, feedback from other councillors who have monthly ward surgeries does not make me feel I should just replicate these in the same mould. There is also a problem with access to suitable locations in other arts of the ward. If you have an idea/suggestion please refer to the question at the foot of the post.
Future Thinking for 21st Century Local Government:
A post by Jacqui McKinlay, Centre for Public Scrutiny has got my attention. In the piece (linked here: future-thinking-for-21st-century-local-government ) reference is made to lack of trust in public institutions and with those who govern them. A very important point is made:
‘For local government to be successful it must have a clear understanding of people’s needs now and in the future, and how it will meet them. There must to be an ongoing conversation, not one off debates in a cold parish hall. We need to be clear about what benefits democracy will bring to them. If not, it will become more irrelevant and what we seek to achieve will become harder. We must change how we connect with local people, seeing them as part of this complex system and not just as recipients of services.’
Link to the website/blog: http://lgru.our.dmu.ac.uk/blog/
A good local example might be the Local Planning Plan Review and Budget setting. I do feel I am doing a lot of ‘telling and explaining’, sometimes after the event and even though the reality is that (sometimes) there may not be another viable option I do appreciate and understand the feeling of it being ‘done to you’ and not ‘with you’.
How can we (I and the local authority) change the way we represent and serve? Is local democracy really evident? Here, the suggestion is:
‘Strong local leadership is essential, as is challenge within the system, to ensure risks are mitigated and those affected are fully engaged. Trust will be generated by knowing that the most difficult decisions are being made by people who know and understand the locality best, not by a Whitehall bureaucrat.’
However (by using a planning and development analogy) sometimes those difficult decisions may mean the opposite of what is wanted locally, but do I/we do enough to explain?
The role of a local councillor is changing, having changed so much since I became a councillor in 2002. A valuable report on the role of the 21st Councillor was published last year and this serves both the councillor, local authority officers and residents: 21st-century-councillor.Now, if existing councillors do not recognise how things have changed how can we expect local residents to know ?
So, this has got me thinking and I would like some feedback on this:
How can I improve on how I engage with you?
I don’t just want answers like ‘you do enough already’, please be constructive, is there something I am missing? I know I am one of the local councillors who embraces social media and live in the ward, but is that enough? Please let me know, I may then be able to impact and influence other councillors in other parts of the borough/region.
Perhaps one might be ‘Why not use survey monkey to seek answers?’ There, I’ve started you off.