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The best Forum around a challenge from Dulwich Cllr James Barber

Geoffrey Settle


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  1. 1. Do you agree with Cllr James Barber about councillors posting non-political threads to help increase their effectiveness on Community Forums?

    • Agree
    • Disagree
    • No opinion

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As many of you have guessed I am doing research into e21st Century Councillors, hence my occasional surveys for your views.


Well here is another one :blink: .


I have just read an article on what the author claims is one of the best Forums around – the East Dulwich Forum click here is hugely popular down south. Yes a councillor has made this claim.


Cllr James Barber ends his excellent article in the monthly magazine cllr (and I don’t know what his political views are) with the comment ‘So I’d encourage all councillors to dip a toe in any local forum if they are lucky to have one and try a thread on how you can help people and see where it takes you. One absolute crucial rule is to say non-political – people have problems that need solving. They’re not looking for me to solve their politics’


So far since 2006 he has received more than 52,500 unique visits to the online surgery… the main thread has attracted 1,600 posts. That’s about 20 items of casework a week… and get from Neighbourhood surveys he believes that over half forum users in Dulwich now have a more positive attitude to councillors since he started the survey and a fifth feel more positive towards council officers.


I would like you to state if you agree, disagree or no opinion?

and maybe a comment...or two :wink:

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A nice idea in principal.


The Cllr will however have to check in regularly to make it work and make sure he/she is constantly replying. Would be time consuming. I do fear however the system may be subject to abuse as it could just turn into a council bashing forum. Not that that is a bad thing :P


When you say non-political, what will councillors talk about? The weather maybe?

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Having spoken to plenty of councillors over the years about this the majority feel they are in a no win situation as there will always be somebody who has a go at them politically and they will be damned if they do and damned if they dont - if they don't give the right answer.

I experience similar problems when disagreeing with some comments on this forum - fortunately politics - the route of much evil along with differing religious beliefs, is not an issue for me.

It would be good if more councillors engaged their communities through a public forum like this - but I understand why they dont.

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The best forum around a challenge? What does that mean? :rolleyes:


When I wrote it I was posing the additional qustion - is it the best forum around - does it match up to this forum or say the manx forum that has a thread for their current general election for Member of the House of Keys?


Manx Forum - Election Thread


They are currently slogging it out Manx style :rolleyes:


Maybe you know of another eForum that I could have alook at which you believe is better.


Thanks for your votes. :D and comments..

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Geoff, after reading it a few times I did understand what you were getting at, but the point to which I was drawing attention was that all communication, particularly anything official should be clearly written and easily understood, to avoid confusion! :wink::D


I agree with Baz J, the Council should have an interactive forum on their site.

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I'm glad that I'm not a moderator - hats off to the moderators especially when a flame war kicks off or when someone writes soemthing that could bring the site into disrepute or worse.


These days you have to be ever so careful with what you post or you will have the ambulance chasers knocking at your door wanting a sack of cash. :twisted:


Gary speaks wise words and this is what partly what I am researching, gingerly :wink:


There is of course the coucil Facebook site - has anyone tried it yet - can you post comments and if you do do you get a reply - is it monitored etc :?:


WBC Facebook

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Facebook... :shock: Is there an emoticon on here which identifies a feeling of "total despair, nonsense and being a saddo 'Billy No Mates' " all at the same time :lol:


I have face book - my wife has face book and my two daughters have face book - what are you trying to say? :unsure:


I am in touch with a lot of my old school mates on face book.

It provides a great way to promote my business and the football club.

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I use Facebook to keep communicate with local residents & community associations as well as attending their meetings in the traditional face-to-face contact way diary permitting - afterall they this media to let their members and the wider public know what is going on in their groups. I'm still a rooky at thisand other eServices. :blink:


Kiklees Council use web casts and twitter to keep their constituents informed about Council and Cabinet meetings and high profile scrutiny episodes (ref cllr magazine page 20 of the Local Government Information Unit)


You can catch Kirklees tweets on #kirkcouncil and there are tweets from members of different parties, not sure how that works but look for youself.


The article by Carl Whistlecraft (Head of Governance and Democratic Services) outlines other initiatives but they are only part of the picture because

councillors still produce leaflets, knock on doors and deal with residents issues face-to-face. The difference is that they now have a few more tools in their box and are perhaps reaching residents who want to engage in different ways with their councillor.


In other words it takes all sorts of ways to communicate because as a councillor you deal with all sorts of people one size does not fit all :rolleyes:

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I am also on facebook. In my job over the years I saw a lot of people come and go and I thought I would never see them again as they are from all over the UK. But facebook has turned out great for keeping in touch. Even old school friends come and say hello.


I have not tried the WBC facebook. May give it a go later. On the few occasions I have communicated with WBC it has been the old fashioned way of phone and post. A forum on the WBC website or facebook as already mentioned would be a good/faster way off communication as long as the website is monitored and they reply.

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The councill as a whole are a waste of space. There are some good people who have my respect but a whole lot more that seem to be only in it for what they can get.


To effectively run a surgery on a local public forum is one of the best uses of the Internet I could think of and if someone’s doing that already then they must be doing something very right. I guess it all comes down to the manner in which the councillors put themselves across, They’d have to keep politics 100% out of the debate (unless it’s a political forum) and this is where this forum would fall flat on its face.


Most importantly, the councillor would have to be a bloody good listener, show complete empathy with the people and avoid the temptation to use the forum in any way for point scoring. In my experience, these latter points would exclude an awful lot if not most of our current councillors.


Bill :)

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You really think WBC would take any notice of what the people think lady? :huh:


I don't know, Cleopatra, but it seems to me that if the polls were set up officially and people knew they were there, the councillors would have to take notice of what people were concerned about. If a subject which obtained the number of votes required was then not discussed in Council, perhaps voters would be more likely to vote in a councillor who promised to take notice of them!

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e-petition take a lot of organisation and promotion but who’ll going to do that here :roll: At the moment, we can’t even get anyone to organise a boozy night out for ourselves so tbi I can’t see something like this ever getting past the bonkers idea stage. :D


In any case, if we voted for them to discuss dog poo or something, then what would we actually achieve? We could have done that by simply asking at a councillor’s surgery so there’s no benefit at all. They’re going to discuss it behind closed doors anyway then come back and give you a dog poo pickerupper so there’s really no point doing any of this.


I’d be happy to see something like a facility where forum members could decide to maybe take one of the issues being debated and then for someone from the council who could be completely anonymous to respond to it. We almost had something like this in the past (remember Council Response?).


Bill :)

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