Don’t miss out!
Get all the most important news and events to your inbox.
Lichfield District Council says a new policy will show stereotypes of local authorities as “old-fashioned, inefficient and incapable of spending public money effectively” are wrong.
A new draft engagement strategy is set to be debated at an overview and scrutiny committee meeting next week.
The four-year plan will look to improve the view residents have on the council and end negative stereotypes.
The strategy says:
“Councils suffer from outdated perceptions – our communities see us as old-fashioned, inefficient and incapable of spending public money effectively. We sit in ‘jobs for life’ with no incentive to evolve or improve.
“Nonsense of course, but this view has unfortunately been perpetuated, opening us up to criticism.
“Negative media coverage and resident complaints bruise our egos, making us defensive and habitually reacting to issues.
“Stuck in a vicious cycle, we put disproportionate focus on placating a negative minority rather than learning from this and improving.
“We risk holding on to knowledge as power, becoming more opaque to protect our reputation. When people feel they are not heard, they stop talking to us, leaving us to make decisions on their behalf.
“Big projects that failed due to forces outside our control, such as Friarsgate, became synonymous with a failing council.”Lichfield District Council’s draft engagement strategy
The strategy says the local authority also needs to be bolder going forward.
“We work industriously behind closed doors to make life better for our residents, but too often it goes uncelebrated.
“Our communications reflects all of this outwardly – it’s regular and efficient, but also safe and formulaic.
“We keep our heads down, only releasing news once it’s fact-checked and sanitised. We feed stories to the media, promoting factual updates but our personality doesn’t shine.
“We look like a brand that doesn’t want to draw too much attention to itself, so communities don’t engage with us much and we quietly get on with our work.
“This approach used to serve us well enough, but it needs to change now.”Lichfield District Council’s draft engagement strategy
“Give people more reasons to like us”
As well as exploring the work of other councils, the new strategy says the private sector has also been used for inspiration to allow the local authority to “move from a reactive stance to a more proactive one”.
It highlights the use of virtual meetings during the coronavirus crisis as a way to make council business more accessible and transparent than it previously was.
“We’ll demonstrate the value we add, the dedication of our teams and the quality of our services, despite the financial cuts we have had to endure.
“We’ll work hard to create content and campaigns that give people more reasons to like us, follow us, and subscribe to our emails, to talk to us and about us.”Lichfield District Council’s draft engagement strategy
In his report accompanying the document, Lichfield District Council leader Cllr Doug Pullen said the new direction was necessary.
“The strategy clearly sets out clearly an ambitious aim to understand our communities and their communication needs in order to tailor our communications methods and content to keep them informed and engaged in a way that enhances the reputation and brand of the council.
“While this may feel critical, this is not the intention, but rather it offers a balanced reflection that accepts that what we do may be good but that it is does not meet our new aspirations and so reflects on where we can learn how our approach can evolve.”Cllr Doug Pullen, Lichfield District Council