Consultation with the residents is often said to be incredibly difficult. However, it’s no different to marketing a business. You want to tell the potential customers (audience) about what you are doing or selling. You want them to be interested (engaged) and ultimately you want them to buy (respond).
So just why do councils struggle with this process? Could it be the lack of trust in the first instance, or could it be the message they send out (telling not asking) and when they decide to buy they are sold the wrong thing!
Despite the fears of some councils, the easiest way to ‘engage’ and get the message out to the residents is often via social media. There are several community groups across the district which have good memberships. They rely purely on ‘shares’ to the groups to get important messages from the council. I don’t know why the council don’t or/and won’t engage with these community sites and post directly to them. Here’s a list of some sites they could consider.
- Rayleigh Action Group (6k membership)
- Rochford to Rayleigh Rising (1k membership)
- Hullbridge (not a member so don’t know the membership numbers)
- Caring about Rochford (5k membership)
I’m not suggesting that social media replaces the need for proper consultation but compliments the efforts to communications that are already in place. The council’s own social media page has a lowly 1k likes. The ‘tell me more’ is a step in the right direction but I think memberships such as the RAG group prove that the residents are interested. It might have cost Linda Kendall £55k, but she has built (with a little help from her supporters) an engaged and often responsive audience.
Some may think it’s money well spent with a new wave of Councillors elected and a reduced Tory majority, the Pandora’s box has well and truly been opened.