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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“Councils suffer from outdated perceptions – our communities see us as old-fashioned, inefficient and incapable of spending public money effectively.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
Doug Pullen

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

Ross

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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12 Comments

  1. A lot of people do see councils as inefficient and happy to waste money.

    I am glad Lichfield is not one of those councils.

    Any news on when Friarsgate will open?

  2. Every time I walk around Lichfield every building development seems to be yet another care home or development for the elderly. I have read that another care home is to be built on Tamworth Road. We complain about the younger generation but what is there for them to do in Lichfield.
    I am 76 years old so this comment is certainly an ageist.

  3. I wish Councillor Pullen all the luck in the world. He is going to need it, I’m afraid.

    One of the interesting parts if the report is the bit about negative media coverage and disgruntled residents bruising egos and making elected members and possibly some officials too defensive. This is a classic chicken and egg point – which came first, the negative media and public reaction or the poor decision-making and inefficiency? I think I know the answer, but I’m sure there are many within council circles who would have an opposite view.

    My perception is that some – not all, as there are obvious exceptions – quickly forget that being elected to office is not a right, it is a privilege. As elected members of the council they should be held accountable for the decisions they make and the statements they make. It is quite correct that we, the voters, question decisions and statements and that the media scrutinises them as closely as they want.

    It is easier said than done I know, but once you get elected you need to park your ego to one side. If you are reluctant to face scrutiny from the public or media then this is not a role for you. If you cannot deal with such enquiries with the respect and professionalism they deserve then stand aside and let someone more suitable take your place. If you do not understand that the electorate has every right to put you on her spot, ask difficult questions and demand the best from elected members then why become a councillor in the first place?

    We have to put up with enough snake oil sales people on the national political stage. So when it us much closer to home we are going to be less inclined to shrug out shoulders and put up with it.

    Your decisions have immediate and direct consequences for each and every one of us. A little scrutiny and ego bruising is a small price to pay for occupying this privileged position.

  4. A four year plan of their own making, to change the perception of just how crap a council can possibly be, but it is not their fault, it’s our fault of course! “placating a negative minority”.

    It’s not just Friarsgate, which was an epic failure on all fronts, it was the smaller stuff like the potential closure of the Friary Grange leisure centre which was slipped out quietly late on a Friday afternoon, fortunately that was picked up on, and weight of public opinion created change.
    But this and other LDC activities has resulted in a lack of trust by a majority of Lichfieldian’s, four years is too slow, our city looks like a bomb site right now, get it sorted.

  5. Bravo Mr Pullen. This is overdue and I do believe he is the right man to lead the council in a better direction.
    I am sure he will do an excellent job in a short space of time as I do believe Mr Pullen should replace Mr Fabricant as our MP at the earliest chance possible.

  6. Well Doug Pullen reputations have to be earned and bad ones do endure. I have lived in Lichfield for almost fifty years and can honestly say that it’s ethos and standing has steadily diminished in that time. In recent years this erosion has accelerated. You do have to understand that if you take on responsibility that is where the buck stops.
    Lichfield has to evolve but the nature of change has been inappropriate and extreme. You say your team listens but it dosen’t! I have seen many representations to the council that have been ignored or given short shift. Without explanation! Public perception is formed from such experiences, and although you might think the negativity is from a minority, I would suggest this goes much deeper.
    Friasgate, Southern Bypass, Rest Homes, lack of amenities, over development, is it all down to bad luck?
    Lichfield could be on a par with places like Ludlow, Ledbury or many respected historic and shopping destinations. Instead it is heading to the sad state of Tamworth.
    If you are genuine in your aspirations to re-brand a sad and failing administration then let’s see both words and deeds before there is nothing worth saving.

  7. Perhaps councils should go back to how they were Philip will remember. Councilors who were business men who went to meetings in the evening, no expenses they did the job for pride. Not like the current lot for whom it is a job then we might get a Lichfield we deserve not what they throw at us.

  8. Fully agree with you there ML. The multiple layers of council representation that we have now are more like family bun-fights.

  9. If you read the document. A lot of it is about use of social media and trying to show the council are actually very efficient.

    The problem is, the Lichfield area tells a different story. Housing developments all over the city.

    A big grey fence, with a piles of rubble behind it. Then spending another £23,000 on signs to say Visit Lichfield.
    https://lichfieldlive.co.uk/2019/12/28/images-on-hoardings-around-former-friarsgate-site-branded-disappointing-by-councillor/

    £15,000 spent on someone to look on a few sites for values of properties.
    https://lichfieldlive.co.uk/2020/06/05/lichfield-district-council-says-goalposts-have-changed-after-planned-commercial-property-investment-is-scrapped/

    The inability to actually count hands in a vote.
    https://lichfieldlive.co.uk/2020/06/10/council-chiefs-left-red-faced-after-vote-on-lichfield-city-centre-masterplan-was-counted-incorrectly/

    @Rob. Yes, the husband and wife pairings. Make the whole thing laughable.

  10. The problem is that they make poor publicity for themselves by making bad decisions. Charging people more for services and then cutting services I could name them but you already know what they are. One good thing they relayed the pot holed cannock road by swan island

  11. @Paperweight… Nice of you to want to give credit for necessary work. Sadly you gave it to the wrong council. Staffordshire County Council looks after the roads (sort of). Lichfield District Council is not involved in such important work.

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