The Strategic Lead –
Community Development and Equalities introduced the report and
stated that community engagement covered a broad spectrum, but the
introduction of a new consultation portal increased residents
inclusion, although it was only in early stages of development. She
felt it was the right time to introduce a new community engagement
approach, which could galvanise best practice and work across
council departments. She added that all council departments should
be working with communities to deliver joint outcomes and enable
community action, without encountering too much bureaucracy. She
summarised and stated the purpose of this report was to gauge
Members views and increase community conversations.
The Chair welcomed the report and felt it was crucial to engage communities. He asked about the process of moving community engagement forward, for example by mapping community groups, and ensuring harder to reach communities were included. The Strategic Lead – Community Development and Equalities answered that the team were currently organising a conference with CVS that would display best practice and how the council were effectively managing services. She clarified that the new framework would not just consult residents, but would actively engage them. She mentioned that the council had a good understanding of voluntary, faith and community groups, and had an ‘asset map’ on a variety of groups. She stated that the new portal was digital and interactive to help harder to reach groups get involved and feel a part of their community.
The Chair asked if new digital engagement was being considered as part of this approach, such as community Facebook pages. The Strategic Lead Community Development and Equalities replied that the consideration of social media was included as part of the strategy, and the portal was becoming a way to increase traction on social media. She added that the portal was not just for surveys, but also for residents to make suggestions, comments and showed visual maps. She stated that it also had a participation budget tool, so a council department could show residents how much money they could spend on a project and residents could get involved by deciding on certain aspects within that budget. She commented that the purpose of this report was to get Member agreement and then every department would sign up to this proposal, so all services could think about the community and say yes to community action.
Councillor Duffin commented that he wanted to see consultation and petition successes pushed on social media, so residents could see the feedback from their participation. He felt that residents often felt disenfranchised as they were consulted on topics, but the outcomes did not change. He wanted to see community engagement leading to definitive change. The Strategic Lead Community Development and Equalities agreed that residents often felt like decisions had already been made, so the new proposal would help to convince people their participation does matter. She added that new portal would give feedback to residents on consultation, and gave the example of the library consultation that highlighted to residents how they had been listened too. Councillor Duffin asked that consultations become easier to use, for example using yes or no polls on Facebook, or asking people to vote and share their opinion. The Strategic Lead Community Development and Equalities replied that the new portal could achieve this, as it was not wholly council led, so residents could become pro-active. She stated the team were now using quick polls to gauge resident’s opinion, as well as making the system more user-friendly by introducing emojis.
Councillor Jefferies felt it was good to see increased resident engagement, and highlighted 2.4 in the report, stating that it was good to see Members could get involved and lead, as often they had access to resident’s viewpoints. Councillor Duffin asked if there was scope around the petitions process, so communities could drive the narrative. The Strategic Lead Community Development and Equalities responded that petitions were now included on the portal, so it was easy for a resident to raise a petition. She added an article had been written by the company who ran the portal, which highlighted how well Thurrock were using the system.
1. The Committee considered the proposal to develop a new framework for community engagement building on the principle of collaboration with communities.
2. The Committee made comments to support the scope in this paper and the development of this approach.