Saturday, 12 November 2011

Communication Skills (or lack thereof)

Brookside has been in the news a lot lately with co-operative council initiatives coming thick and fast and now an announcement about Stirchley schools, including Brookside's local secondary school, the Lord Silkin.

We need some longer string
All these initiatives and promises of investment and attention are very welcome but I would quite like to hear about them before they are announced to the local press.  When residents are asking me for information or opinion on things that they've heard on the radio or in the newspaper I would quite like to be able to answer them without having to wait until the Shropshire Star is delivered or heading for Google.

I took this up with Councillor Shaun Davies, the cabinet member for co-operative council, a month ago when the announcement about regeneration for Brookside was announced to the media:
Dear Shaun,

I was pleased to finally see what appears to be a firm commitment to regenerating Brookside. We have been promised regeneration for years and had nothing whilst jealously admiring the tens of millions of pounds worth of regeneration in parts of Telford.

However, as a parish councillor for Brookside I am more than a little disappointed that I had to find out about today's announcement from Shropshire Live and Radio Shropshire rather than the council. Surely the co-operative council ethos means co-operating with everyone who has an interest in Brookside? This is a really important thing for us as a council and as a community.

Today's announcement says that the parish council is involved yet there was no mention of co-operative council at the full council meeting last week or the Environment & Community Committee the week before and nobody has offered any information or asked me if I want to be involved in the co-operative council board (the answer is yes, of course I would). If parish councillors are being kept in the dark, what hope is there for residents who want to know what's happening in their community? If there is no co-operation with parish councillors, what hope is there for residents who want to get involved?

I appreciate that co-operative council is a new thing for everyone involved but for me, this really isn't a good start.

I won't publish the entire email chain because I'm still pursuing this but to be fair to him, Councillor Davies does reply when I send him emails, even at unsociable hours.  Which shows how unreasonable it is that Telford & Wrekin Council seems incapable or unwilling to communicate with the parish council, with parish councillors and other individuals and group who have a specific interest in what is happening when Councillor Davies replies to emails at 11 o'clock at night on a weekend.

Councillor Davies says that I make some valid points about communication and after me sending him another email because nothing has changed, has offered to meet me with the lead project officer to discuss it further.

As an example of just how bad communication is from Telford & Wrekin Council, I was volunteered to help with the running of the Brookside Community Noticeboard Facebook group at a Co-operative Council board meeting.  Of course I'll do it, there is no question about that, but I only found out by accident when I was sent a copy of the minutes by the Chairman of Brookside Improvement Group.  It would have been nice to have been asked beforehand but I'm not particularly bothered that I wasn't, I'm just a bit annoyed that they weren't even going to tell me!

Now I know for a fact that I'm not the only one that is getting frustrated at the poor communication from Telford & Wrekin Council so I intend to take their grievances with me when I meet Councillor Davies and come out of the meeting with some firm plans.  If you have any comments on communication or ideas for how it could be improved, please contact me so I can make sure your views are passed on.