Doug Pullen

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A new strategy will allow Lichfield District Council to rethink the way it engages with communities, the local authority’s leader has said.

Cllr Doug Pullen was speaking at a meeting of the strategic overview and scrutiny committee yesterday (23rd June).

In a debate over the proposed new engagement strategy, the Conservative leader said the plans were for “a fundamental reset” on how the council engaged with people and organisations locally.

“We’ve treated communications as an add-on in the past and something we do on the periphery.

“I believe it should be integral to everything we do as an organisation – not just in terms of giving in formation but also receiving as well.

“It’s not just a marketing exercise to make ourselves look better. It really is a fundamental reset on how we speak to, listen to and properly engage with residents, businesses, voluntary organisations etc across the district.”

Cllr Doug Pullen

The strategy outlined how the council needed to shrug off misconceptions that it was “old-fashioned and inefficient”.

“Public know what we are trying to achieve”

Lichfield District Council House

Cllr Colin Greatorex told the meeting he did not agree that residents viewed the local authority in a negative light.

“I have to say that I was disappointed in the report. I don’t think it’s parochial to Lichfield District Council.

“I don’t think it has any recognition of where we have come from and how good we have been at communicating.

“There have been a couple of incidences – Friary Grange Leisure Centre and Friarsgate – which have not been particularly good in the last few years, but prior to that we were particularly good at communicating and had a good rapport with our residents.

“We’ve actually got a good brand. Lichfield District Council is quite a well-received authority.

“To write this report as if the public are egging us and we don’t do anything right – the sort of things Lichfield Live have picked out as headlines such as ‘old fashioned and out of date’ – I don’t think is accurate.

“Two incidents have damaged the brand but, generally speaking, I don’t think what is in the text is right – we have got quite a good understanding from our public who know what we are trying to achieve.”

But another member of the scrutiny committee, Cllr Colin Ball, suggested residents did not historically have faith in the council.

Colin Ball

“The folk of Lichfield don’t have the high opinion of the council, but it has improved recently due to the way the COVID-19 crisis has been dealt with.

“When I first moved here, the Fit for the Future programme was badly communicated and caused a lot of unrest within the community.

“There are examples throughout my in Lichfield here where council hasn’t been as good as it could have been.

“I agree that communication – listening and getting the message out there – are really important.”

Cllr Colin Ball

“If something goes wrong we can’t spin it to go away”

Cllr Joanne Grange said she had issues with some parts of the strategy but said the council needed to ensure the strategy wasn’t about spin.

“It’s important we communicate well – I’m not entirely convinced that enhancing the reputation and brand should be the desired outcome.

“I’m a little bit uncomfortable that we don’t seem to be recognising sometimes things do go wrong and sometimes things are negative.

“If something goes wrong we can’t spin it to go away – we’ve got to deal with it.

“I hear from residents that we are very good at tick box consultation, but then the council will spend a lot of time telling residents why they’re wrong. There is no point doing anything else unless we address that.”

Cllr Joanne Grange

The full meeting can be viewed below:

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Ross

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9 Comments

  1. You can spot the councillor who was part of the old guard in this a mile off…he’s the one who thinks everyone holds the council in high esteem. Which planet do you have to be on to think that Friarsgate is the only problem we have with the council??? Bin tax, poor planning decisions, continual CT increases…would he like us to go on??? Even if we take these out, glossing over Friarsgate which has left us footing the bill for millions and seeing a swathe of derelict land across the city in the way he does is an absolute insult to all of us.

  2. I find it laughable but totally predictable that Cllr Greatorex would say there isn’t a problem and it is being engineered by outside forces.
    But to say there have only been a “couple of incidences” which have not been “particularly good” and then cite Friary Grange Leisure Centre and Friarsgate – arguably the two biggest mistakes of the last few years – shows how out of touch with reality some councillors clearly are.
    Friarsgate is still a major problem. Friary Grange took the mobilisation of local people to get the council to sort it out properly.
    These are far from being two insignificant and isolated incidents, they are actually symbolic of the issues many people have with the council and some councillors.
    I genuinely hope that Cllr Greatorex does not represent the majority view of the council. If he does, we are in serious trouble.

  3. Need business men on council who go to meetings in their spare time do not draw expenses and have experience in running big outfits not amerteurs we have at present

  4. Ross
    Thanks for a chance to watch the Virtual meeting, I was unable to view it live as I kept getting an error message, even tried it on a second PC, but still the same message, so not sure what the problem was as I was able to view other “You Tube” items

  5. Critisism is a bit like water off a ducks back as far as some councillors are concerned, as illustrated in some of the comments in the report.
    Cllr. Grange is much nearer the mark. People don’t habitually complain. Moreover they want to be listened too. Councillors do not live in ivory towers and should respect that they REPRESENT people not dictate to them.
    Good will can return if the council can find the acumen to respect those they purport to serve.

  6. It is good to know there are different opinions within the council and not all councillors are simply towing “the line”.
    But I have to say Cllr Grange’s comments seem far more appropriate and positive than Cllr Greatorex who just seems to be ignorant of what people actually do think.

    Elsewhere on this online newspaper there is the launch of a campaign “Lichfield Looks Forward”.
    May I suggest the council starts putting its money where its mouth is and support this campaign as it looks like it is ordinary people who are organising it. Maybe the council would learn some important things by taking an active part?

  7. I read in Lichfield Live this week that the council believe they get the blame for things outside their control and cited the Friarsgate failure as an example. If I may just set the record straight here: the Friarsgate fiasco failed due to the council forging ahead (ahead is questionable) without funding being in place and with no effort made to get proper funding in place right up to the end. A disgraceful squandering of public money. That they may say was the “old Council”. The new council not to be outdone then start their own fiasco – trying to close our one and only swimming pool on the QT. The Council need to concentrate on what they can control and accept their failures as quickly as they crow their successes.

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