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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”
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we don’t do anything right – the sort of things Lichfield Live have picked out as headlines such as ‘old fashioned and out of date’ – I don’t think is accurate.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.
“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: