LGA Lib Dem Group Lead member on rural issues, Councillor Heather Kidd, has got some good practice to share on rural campaigning during lockdown.
South West Shropshire covers a very rural area stretching from Chirbury and Worthen, to Bishop’s Castle and through Clun to Bucknell. This covers around 180 sq miles and has less than 10,000 residents along the Welsh Border. The area is represented by three Lib Dem Shropshire Councillors - Nigel, Ruth and myself.
During the lockdown we were prevented from door knocking, sending Focus and normal campaigning in general BUT we have elections due next year (2021)! We needed a solution, we needed to support our residents and we needed to raise our profiles – especially of Ruth, the Councillor for Bishops Castle, who was only elected in a by-election in September 2019.
So, what was our campaign to set the scene for the 2021 elections?
We began sending out non-political E-Bulletins with useful advice and updates. These were sent out around every 10 days on email and on Facebook. We are now on edition 12. They are well read, and feedback is good. Paper versions are available in some shops and are available on request.
We are writing to all new on register welcoming them and including a newly produce contact card, the latest edition of the Bulletin.
In July we began a buy local campaign putting up posters throughout our Divisions and in many of our local shops. This helped boost footfall in local businesses as we came out of lockdown As we reached the school holidays we produced and Eat local leaflet for B&B’s caravan Parks. Hotels etc. This listed all the local eateries with opening times etc. We launched this in the press and had wide local coverage. Shropshire’s Tory run Council was doing nothing.
Our first paper Focus since Lockdown in March was delivered in the middle to end of September.
We have worked hard to build a Facebook presence spreading the reach of our leaflets, road closures, local issues around flooding, potholes, wildlife articles and now local jobs. Nigel, Ruth and I now all have active Facebook pages which have been boosted to improve their reach and followers. This has worked well.
We have built email lists of local businesses and increased the numbers of emails we have to send out information to. Nigel was on Midlands Today at 6.30 and 10.30pm with flooding in Bucknell exposing Shropshire Councils lack of drainage work. We have a regular appearance in all the local papers -the South Shropshire Journal, County Times and Shropshire Star.
We have also been involved in running and supplying our newly formed foodbanks, collecting and delivering prescriptions. Huge amounts of casework too.
We are about to start a soft knock on the phone with the numbers we have.
The aim was to keep our names in front of our residents, be there when needed and signpost to essential services. Ruth’s’ profile is now very high, Nigel has much enhanced Facebook coverage! Meanwhile I continue to build on my local profile. We are building on our photo bank and campaign history for election leaflets so Lockdown was not a quiet time for us and we continue to work through this second wave.