CBC Suggests Minor Tinkering to Make Meetings Open

The CBC Governance and Audit Committee will be moving a little further towards the real world when it next meets at the Town Hall on 16 January.

You may remember how it was tasked last year with ways of making CBC meetings a little more SEXY.

Good luck with that one etc, Comrades.

But this is important stuff.

Even Firstsite would give CBC a good run for its money when it comes to resident participation.

After almost a year of head scratching, the Gov and Audit lot will be delivering their findings next week at the Town Hall… during a SEXY meeting that will follow proper civic protocol and stuff.

The agenda report [pdf] explains:

“The aim of the review was to look at and improve processes around Colchester Borough Council Committee meetings. The report will also review a trial of the later start times of meetings.”

Just for the record, the Gov and Audit folk have been summoned back to the traditional start time of 6pm, and not the 7pm which was trialled.

It seems that a little tinkering has taken place behind the scenes. Never let it be said that CBC is a revolutionary beast. It even struggles with evolution tbh.

Digital agendas have had a three month trial across three Committees: Governance and Audit Committee, the Scrutiny Panel and the Revolving Investment Fund Committee.

This trial has replaced the old way of working where every Committee member is sent a brown envelope in the post containing 200+ page docs that no one ever reads.

Does a tree fall down if no one can hear it?

Does local democracy take place if a Cllr can’t be arsed to scroll through a 200+ page pdf rather than read a 200+ page dead tree transcript?

Training for digital devices was offered by CBC. Eleven Cllr’s took up the offer.

But the medium is the message.

CBC has offered Cllr’s a choice of three devices in which to engage with the modern world:

Android – Samsung Galaxy A Tablet,

Apple – iPad (with Keyboard attachment, natch) and

Windows – Surface 3 laptop hybrid.

Five Cllr’s have taken up the offer.

Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

As for the audio streaming of CBC meetings?

This was trialled across the board between March and December of last year.

In total 488 people listened to a meeting. The largest audience was for the Local Plan Committee in November when 96 people listened to various Cllr’s fudging and trying to justify the folly of the bloody Garden Villages.

More significant is the 2,716 total number of playbacks for the listen again facility.

Disclaimer: 2,000 of these came from The Chronic.

Finally Cllr’s were asked for their feedback on the start time of meetings. Seventeen preferred the traditional 6pm, with nine Cllr’s choosing the 7pm start time.

As ever with CBC, that means that a fair few Cllr’s abstained.

Hey hoe.

But it’s not all about them.

What of the Little People?

The Gov and Audit Committee will simply be asked to note the progress within the report.

There are some half decent ideas buried within.

But is still comes back to how CBC can be to the people that it serves.

A quick trawl through the modern interweb shows that there is a tremendous appetite for residents to take part in how their communities are run.

FB, Twitter, and yep, The Gazette comments.

People do care.

What takes place at Town Hall meetings is the exact same content that is shared online, albeit in a little more stuffy manner.

CBC is not alone in finding it difficult to make this approach to local government a little more open.

Tinkering helps, but they are not going to transform democracy around Sunny Colch.

Plus: here’s our previous waffling response. We admit that we were a little tired and emotional when it was first written.

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