And so Colchester Borough Council is inviting residents to have their say on the work of Council committees.
— Alison Inman (@Alison_Inman) January 18, 2017
Making meetings more SEXY has been something of a CBC talking shop that has been on the back burner for a number of years now.
There was even grand talk of taking Full Council out on the road to the likes of firstsite and the Community Stadium.
As ever, talk is cheap with CBC.
But it now seems that the issue of residents ‘engaging’ [URGH] with localgov meets is actually being taken seriously:
“Colchester Borough Council is inviting residents to participate in an informal consultation exercise and to complete an online survey, as part of a wide-ranging review of how the council can better interact with the public.”
The Chronic has attended more CBC meets than it has watched midweek Champions League matches.
Something is VERY wrong with our social priorities.
We have long been a big fan of Have Your Say.
This is a non-statutory part of each meeting. CBC isn’t required to offer residents their three minutes of fame, but it is to the credit of the Council that Have Your Say exists.
Having said that…
It’s great that you get to eyeball the decision makers and ask them a direct question. Sometimes though the response isn’t at all helpful, with no further right of reply.
Have Your Say was reduced to a complete farce at the last Full Council meeting. One resident asked about their own personal housing situation.
The response from the Portfolio Holder for Housing was to bang on with a well-rehearsed political speech attacking another political party.
Ta for coming, etc.
And this pretty much sums up the whole meetings issue with CBC.
There is little accountability, and pretty zero transparency.
The Little People can Have Their Say, but the Cabinet members can sigh and say: NEXT!
We lost any interest in the farce of a pre-staged Cabinet meeting a long time ago. Debate is reduced to political tit-for-tat, rather than solutions.
The outcomes are cooked up in advance behind closed doors.
We *really* would like to know who is pulling the strings here: the democratically accountable (ha!) Cllr’s, or the ‘apolitical’ senior Officers, who seem to have increased their control of decisions of late.
Or maybe it’s just Fenwicks?
But well done CBC for at least giving the impression that it gives a stuff.
We completed the online questionnaire, but with little expectation as to what it might actually achieve.
The questions are presented to address the experience, and not the actual outcome.
You are made to feel most welcome whenever attending a CBC meeting – unless your name is Andy Hamilton.
But we’d rather get the cold shoulder treatment, but leave feeling that the views of the residents have actually been considered.
They Work Fo You, remember.
And so here are some random Chronic thoughts about how localgov meets could be better served at CBC:
Those CBC Committee papers are just bobbins.
Tell It Like It Is, etc.
We use to actually read word for the 200 page+ reports, to try and get a grasp on what the policy was.
But there comes a time when you think f-it.
Life really is too short.
Do the Cllr’s actually read the reports ‘crafted’ by the Officers? We didn’t get this impression when we attended Wivenhoe Town Council this week.
Two of the Borough Cllr’s dodged some half-decent WTC questioning on the Garden Villages, by stating they didn’t have the papers in front of them.
We totally get the need to go through the mechanisms of localgov and offer up detailed reports.
But we would argue also for a single page summary, written so that people can actually understand what is being proposed.
Set out the policy and reasons the administration want to put this in place.
Then give equal space to the alternative argument, penning by the Opposition ideally.
Avoid playing localgov bingo.
Take the politics out of CBC.
Ha, bloody ha etc.
Full Council and Cabinet have failed to serve the function in which they are supposed to operate. They have been debased to become nothing but a third rate slanging match for would be career politicians.
It is not a pleasant experience watching tribal political sorts being nasty to other tribal political sorts, simply because they are members of a party which ideologically they are pre-programmed to detest.
Grow up, ffs.
The Chronic took a break from CBC meets over the autumn period. We returned once again last year. Nothing has changed. We are in no hurry to return tbh.
Make the meetings more accessible. The Public Gallery in the Town Hall is crap. You can fit 20 people in there max. It is very cramped.
You can only see two thirds of the Cllr’s that represent you.
Firstsite, the Arts Centre, the Mercury – all would make for decent venues.
You can also add a sweetener in there as well. It needn’t detract from the serious business of localgov, but a little cultural interval might get a few more folk in.
Hold the meetings at the weekend. The current 6pm midweek start times puts off a number of working people from becoming a Cllr.
If you work in London then this more or less rules you out.
Sir Bob of Sunny Colch even had the balls in the past to state that a coffin dodger would make a better Cllr than a Bright Young Thing, as they have more time.
Meetings already overrun to 9:30pm or later. Shifting the start time to 7pm isn’t going to help the matter.
People behave differently in the evenings anyway. They are either tired and grumpy, or completely fired up and ready for the ‘fight.’
Localgov should never be about the fight.
There is a reason as to why local football derby matches take place at midday on a Saturday or a Sunday.
This might just help to make the decision making at CBC a little better informed.
Cllr’s are paid an ‘allowance’ btw…
Please do add any comments below.
Or even better – fill in the questionnaire, or attend the first event.
It rather conveniently takes place on Saturday 21st January, 10am-1pm, in the Grand Jury Room at the Town Hall.
But for now, Cabinet, Full Council etc is out of bounds for us.
They just don’t work in their current form.