The council is planning to pilot virtual surgeries. The team is looking to develop a toolkit to give Members the option to run ward surgeries online where local councillors feel this would be helpful.
The team has developed two methods of running virtual councillor surgeries. The first will involve councillors in the ward hosting a Teams meeting for two hours on the designated day available for residents to drop in to by following a link from the council website.
A basic Teams meeting allows councillors to admit residents into the main chatroom from a lobby which also includes an instant messaging function for one of the councillors to contact the resident waiting in case they are still talking to the previous person. Teams also allows those who do not have the application installed on their device to join via a browser and it also has a dial in option for those that do not have a device for this.
The second option builds on the first by integrating a booking system into the surgeries process to give more control and order to proceedings. Using an app like the free booking system Calendly residents could book appointments with local councillors. Councillors could also ask the residents to provide some details about the issue they wish to raise and their address when they book. By asking for an address, councillors can check whether an individual is actually a ward resident.
This booking system also sends out a unique email to the resident with a link to the teams meeting and provides them with an Outlook calendar invite.
How will the new approach be sustained?
The approach will be implemented and controlled by the ward councillors with officers available to provide technical support. Online surgeries will only be implemented where the local Members feel it would be helpful to do so.
Teams may not work with Safari meaning Apple users have to download an alternate browser or the Teams App to join a call.