Engagement and Communication - Group Leader's Comment - 15 February 2019

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) Spring Conference held its spring conference this week which saw Town and Parish councillors, including twin and triple hatters, come together to discuss some of the key issues facing us.

Congratulations to Cllr Mark Bamforth who has created a step change in participating in council meetings online, especially important for those with mental health or long term conditions. It has been a hard fought battle over two years, finally agreed this week by Fylde council. Could this become more widespread? The guidelines to make it a safe decision-making process are available. This is an amazing breakthrough in an important landmark, thanks to Mark, and staff, peers and colleagues, who provided support through the LGA Independent Group.

National Association of Local Councils (NALC) Spring Conference

NALC held its spring conference this week which saw Town and Parish councillors, including twin and triple hatters, come together to discuss some of the key issues facing us.

Jane Ramsey sits on the committee on standards in public life and you can download their event report.

Recommendations include:

  • a new power for local authorities to suspend councillors without allowances for up to six months • revised rules on declaring interests, gifts and hospitality
  • local authorities retain ownership of their own Codes of Conduct
  • a right of appeal for suspended councillors to the Local Government Ombudsman
  • a strengthened role for the Independent Person
  • greater transparency about the number and nature of Code complaints.

Download the LGA's response to the committee.

Tracey Crouch MP, spoke about loneliness and the important role councils have in addressing it through planning, transport, promoting community events and social prescribing. The LGA and NALC are looking for examples of what councils are doing to address loneliness. I bet you have some good case studies? Please let us know.

An interesting innovation discussed at NALC was the Community Organisers model of engagement which many councillors have adopted. We will be holding a free training session on this soon.

Effective Communication was the other hot topic and the key message was to utilise everything at your disposal, including more traditional means like noticeboards, the local free paper and door knocking. Face to face interactions remain the best! For example, this week one of my colleagues in West Lindsey DC held a brilliant area focus group over tea and biscuits, resulting in a neat list of local priorities and possible solutions.

New Conversations 2

David Evans of the Campaign Company spoke at the launch of New Conversations 2 at the LGA this week. He points out that Trust in local government has lowered for the first time in some years. A range of scandals have shattered our most secure and trustworthy institutions, leaving people uncertain. It takes you, as a local councillor directly communicating, to cut through.

District Council Network Annual conference

At the District Council Network Annual Conference last week, Mayor Kate Allsop chaired an excellent session on what could be achieved by communicating effectively with residents. Speaking on Kate's panel was Tim Parkin from Think Local Act Personal, Adam Lent from the New Local Government Network and Cllr Martin Fisher from Tandridge Council who gave an inspiring account of how much they had achieved towards the health of their local community. Measured outcomes could include fewer people describing themselves as lonely, proportion exercising regularly and proportion engaged in learning new skills and regular community activities.

Dates for your diary

  • 18 February – LGA Independent Group Home Counties Regional Meeting in Esher, Surrey
  • 1 March – LGA Independent Group East Midlands Regional Meeting in Lincoln
  •  13 March - LGA Housing, planning and infrastructure conference, including Kit Malthouse, the Minister of State for Housing confirmed for the keynote.
  • 15 March – Our final Information and Development Seminar before the local elections will update members on the Spring Statement and what it means for councils (a topic that will be repeated at our regional meetings in Bury St Edmunds and Brighton
  • 18 March – LGA Independent Group East of England Regional Meeting in Bury St Edmunds
  • 19 March – LGA Independent Group South East Regional meeting in Brighton