Nicky told us about her work with the Digbeth Residents’ Association and the frustrations involved in trying to engage with her local council. Lessons were:
- local groups want a relationship with their council
- groups should be included in big consultation projects, not left to find out about events and information by accident
- Plain English information is vital if you want good feedback
- if you advertise an event, make sure it goes ahead or the cancellation is well publicised – one roadshow event didn’t go ahead due to a photoshoot being scheduled instead. Local people didn’t know, went along and felt stood-up
- press offices can’t afford to ignore bloggers and local interest groups – after being fobbed off a number of times, Nicky resorted to an FOI request. Bloggers have niche and often important audiences, engage with them
- Councillors should reply to emails – in one case, of three councillors being contacted only one replied and that was to forward the email to a council officer. Who didn’t reply
- Councils should develop ways for local groups to access funding, signposting and support for grassroots ideas and projects – frustrating for people to be constantly knocked-back
- when community posts are deleted or left unfilled, groups who have worked with the officers in those posts need to be informed and given new contacts where possible.
In contrast, the Association’s relationship with the Police is good. Representatives tend to go to meetings and lines of communication are open. Shows it can be done.
Chat after Nicky’s talk centred on positive ways that local groups can try to engage with their Council. Requesting a meeting with the Mayor/Chairman, approaching officers and Councillors through different channels and doing everything with a positive attitude were all cited.
Creative commons: What’s on your mind? by Carol VanHook on Flickr