If Linda Kendall's Rayleigh Action Group achieved one thing then I would personally say it raised awareness of what is going on around us and in local government. I'm keen to help carry this on. We need to know what decisions are being taken and why by our local council. We, the residents need our voices heard. Yes I'm a Councillor, but I'm a resident too.

Yesterday I sent the Managing Director of Rochford District Council, what I considered an important question. The level and quality of Rochford District Council's public engagement. I, like some of our other council members find the communication, well let's say, a little less than satisfactory.

Yes I did have a particular subject matter in mind - AQAP - For those who've been following my posts will know I've been bashing this one. Those who know me would probably use the term 'dog with a bone' - I'm not letting this one go!

I was pleased the MD replied quickly to my query and has detailed the methods of engagement used for this consultation.

  • All 223 households within the AQMA have received a letter with a specific URL directing them to the consultation www.rochford.gov.uk/airquality.
  • A tailored e-mail was sent to Rayleigh Chamber of Trade, with a request that they circulate this to businesses.
  • Hard copies of the consultation have been placed on receptions at the Council offices in Rochford, the Civic Suite and in libraries across the district, and are available on request. It has also been made clear that anyone who cannot respond via these methods can call or email, our Environmental Health Team Leader Martin Howlett.
  • Martin has been liaising with Rayleigh Town Council and has a meeting with the clerk Kerry Cumberland on December 6.
  • The AQAP consultation features on our website in the ‘Have Your Say’ section which is dedicated to all ongoing consultations, it also features in the ‘News & Events’ section. We are in the process of migrating to a new website which is due for launch on Monday, following which a banner will be added to the home page. A list of FAQs will also be uploaded.
  • We are promoting the consultation via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and social media messages have been scheduled throughout the consultation period. These have been circulated on local community pages and by the Yellow Advertiser. 
  • A poster will be provided to Rayleigh Town Council for dissemination via their noticeboards. (A request I made via the clerk at the Town Council)
  • A press release has been created with an accompanying photograph taken within the AQMA area, featuring the diffusion tubes that our Environmental Health team use. This has been circulated via the Communications department to local press, radio, television and websites, as well as MPs and parish councils, Rochford Chamber of Trade and the Local Government Association. This led to an article in the Echo on November 30.
  • The press release was also circulated to Members, who as community leaders regularly work to raise awareness amongst residents.
  • Rochford and Castle Point CCG has issued press release/social media messages in order to promote the consultation
  • A decision was made to extend the consultation from 4 weeks to just over 5, to encourage participation in the lead-up to the Christmas period and beyond.
  • Emails have been sent to all neighbouring local authorities via the Environmental Health Team, along with Essex County Council, Defra, the Environment Agency and Highways England.
  • www.essexair.org also hosts the consultation document and is using social media to promote the consultation.
  • We will also use our new service, called ‘#Tell Me More’, to promote the consultation once it is launched next week. This service enables residents to sign up for e-mail alerts from the Council on subjects they are interested in. The additional benefit is that our services will be cross-promoted by other Government organisations which already use this system (including Essex County Council), with residents being more likely to read the information because they have specifically requested it.

Although there seems a great level of methods used to communicate, I'm still not 'convinced' the message will reach those who are most vulnerable to poor air quality - the elderly.

I'd like to know if you feel Rochford District Council have done enough or how could they communicate the message better?​

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About the author 

James Newport

Essex County Councillor for Rayleigh North, Rochford District Councillor for Downhall & Rawreth and Rayleigh Town Councillor for Sweyne.

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