Delivering the recommendations
They also approved the appointment of eight councillors to the renewed Local Democracy Working Group, which will oversee delivery of all the recommendations during 2019/20. This group held their first meeting in May and have been meeting regularly throughout the year.
Many projects and activities are already well underway – here are some examples of our current work.
Openness and transparency
- We have reviewed and updated our website so that it meets the requirements of the new Public Sector Accessibility Regulations.
- We are finalising a new Communications Strategy and Social Media Strategy for the Council, which will help us to improve how we engage with all local residents.
- We are developing an ‘open data’ approach for the Council (publishing data that anyone can access, use and share) – this has included a visit to Bristol Is Open (a joint project between Bristol City Council and Bristol University) and discussions with the Open Data Institute and the Chief Digital Officer at the Greater London Authority.
- After a successful trial during the summer, we have now started webcasting all Mayor & Cabinet and Full Council meetings.
- We have designed a new template and guidance for Council reports in order to improve their quality and accessibility. This template will be rolled-out from January 2020, together with an online form for residents to provide direct feedback on the accessibility of all our reports and publications.
- We will now publish all decisions made by councillors at committee meetings within two days.
Public involvement in decisions
- We have made changes to our internal processes and tools in order to improve the way in which we provide feedback to residents who participate in consultation and engagement activity.
- We are working closely with young people to improve our current approach to online communications and social media aimed at them. We are also developing new mechanisms to increase young people’s engagement with and understanding of local decision-making, such as councillor question time panels in schools.
- We have undertaken a detailed evaluation of engagement mechanisms used by other Councils, including Citizens’ Assemblies (a group of residents who are brought together to discuss a specific issue and reach a conclusion about what they think should happen) and People’s Panels (a large, demographically representative group of citizens who are regularly consulted on a range of issues).
- We are using new community engagement tools (such as Commonplace) to help residents and councillors identify priority themes for their ward (as part of the allocation of Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy funding). We are also hoping to test the Place Standard tool as part of this work.
- We reviewed our local data and researched specific issues and challenges facing ‘seldom-heard’ groups and individuals as well as looking at examples of good practice by other organisations. Following this, we worked with a small number of community organisations and their members to gather insights and explore how we can better engage with these groups and individuals in the future.
- We have researched different approaches to the Council’s overview & scrutiny function (the way in which the Mayor and Cabinet, officers and external organisations are held to account for the decisions that they make) and consulted with councillors on options for a new structure, which will improve its impact and effectiveness. The final proposal is due to be presented to Full Council in April 2020.
- We are exploring ways of making Full Council meetings more accessible for residents, such as introducing public viewing in other areas of the Civic Suite.
- We have changed the title of Chair of Council to Speaker so that it is easier for residents to understand what the councillor appointed to this role does.
- We are designing a new approach for the internal Works Council, which will improve engagement between councillors and trade union representatives.
- We are developing a set of ‘member role profiles’ to ensure the different roles that councillors can undertake and the responsibilities involved are better understood. We have also undertaken an audit of all councillor appointments to outside bodies, focusing on the role of the councillor within the organisation and their individual responsibilities.
- We are upgrading our Licensing system in order to streamline back office functions and provide an online platform for residents to make Licensing applications and representations as well as seeing real-time updates on all applications in their local area.
- We are developing proposals to improve public communication and engagement processes within Planning and expand the provision of professional support to councillors who are responsible for Planning decisions.
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