** Health warning – These are my own personal views and not those of QPC**
Last night saw the 2012 Annual parish Assembly for Quedgeley. Up and down the country Parish Councils are reporting less than brilliant turn out at these events and last night was no different for us. With a number of groups turning out to highlight to the rest of the community what they get up to, an interesting debate on the proposed incinerator, as well as the opportunity for residents to “have a go” at the Parish Council, or even congratulate them for the fantastic work they are doing, it begs the question, what can we do differently to engage.
For me there is two issues here, this problem of low attendance at Parish Meetings shows that Parish councils need to have a long, hard look at the way they interact with their residents. Low attendance can be explained in 2 ways, firstly that residents are so happy with the way things are going that they don’t feel the need to go and grill their Parish Councillors, or that they just don;t feel the Parish Council is not relevent to them and it would be 2/3 hours wasted in an evening. unfortunately I fear it is more the latter than the former.
However, that said there were some really good presentations including ones from pupils from Severn Vale School (17 GCSES – impressive, you know who you are), Quedgeley Baptist Church, St James Church and of course a couple of stints by yours truly around the Parish plan and the work of the Kingsway Residents Association as well as the Parish report.
Also there was really interesting back to back presentations by Glosvain and Urbaser Balfour Beatty. It is the first time I have seen them both present in this way and I thought it was really good to hear the challenging of both sides, from each other as well as from the audience. What was really interesting is that actually the biggest criticism is levelled not at UBB per se, but actually at the County Council. There are issues around the consultation, the competition, the location, the waste figures, the waste targets and all of this has nothing really to do with the technical solution, but the competence of Gloucestershire County Council in effective procurement and programme management.
This also leads me nicely to my next point, it was very disappointing to not have any City or County Councillors at the meeting (with the exception of the chair of the Parish Council). I had assumed that the City Councillors were at the Planning Training that unfortunately conflicted, but I have since learned that was not the case and the County Councillors were not there either.
So as far as Parish meetings go, we need to look at what we can do differently to engage with the Public. In the Kingsway Public Meetings, we get very good turn out, so its worth seeing what we can transfer to the Parish evenings. Maybe a physical meeting is not the way to go, what about a podcast, a webcast or utilising technology in a more efficient way, or a combination of them all.
** Health warning – in case you have forgotten the one at the top – These are my own personal views and not those of QPC**