Interesting to read that Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles is promoting transparency in local councils by urging them to allow online filming of council discussions.
Bob Neill MP, Local Government Minister has evidently written to councils advising them to allow ‘online broadcasters’ to get the same access to public meetings as journalists do.
This move was started by Margaret Thatcher in the 1960s when she passed the Private Members Bill, Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings Act 1960).
Eric Pickles said:
“Fifty years ago, Margaret Thatcher changed the law to make councils open their meetings to the press and public. This principle of openness needs to be updated for the 21st Century. More and more local news comes from bloggers or citizen journalists telling us what is happening at their local council. Many councils are internet-savvy and stream meetings online, but some don’t seem to have caught up with the times and are refusing to let bloggers or hyper-local news sites in. With local authorities in the process of setting next year’s budget this is more important than ever.
He went onto say “Opening the door to new media costs nothing and will help improve public scrutiny. The greater powers and freedoms that we are giving local councils must be accompanied by stronger local accountability. We are in the digital age and this analogue interpretation of the press access rules is holding back a new wave of local scrutiny, accountability and armchair auditors.”
The video below is a clip of Tim Coates, the ex CEO of Waterstones. Being a councillor in a Borough where spending reductions need to be made, the video makes a very interesting watch.
Mr Coates spoke to an audience of residents and councillors on the Isle of Wight about how to cut library spending without cutting libraries.
Mr Coates successfully takes out 35% of the cost of running libraries by giving local libraries greater autonomy and taking out several layers of the management structure at the town hall and allowing the wholesaler to distribute the books to each library rather than the books having to go via the council, thereby increasing cost. He presents, it would seem a much more simplified version of managing libraries and at a much greater level of value for money.
Mr Coates presents a typical management structure where the chain starts with library staff flowing up nine layers until we eventually get to the councillor. He strips the layers of management down to just four, and rather the chain ends with individual library managers. Mr Coates says:
‘Arrangements should be made with library suppliers so that each individual library orders and receives its own shelf ready supplies …Each library should be given access to several suppliers
With this new arrangement each library manager should be free to decide what to order, how to handle reservations and when to arrange transfers from other libraries.
Their budget will be allocated monthly and they will have the responsibility to their own local community for providing for and meeting their needs.
The library manager is also free to manage the staff budget and arrange opening hours to suit the local community, the use of volunteers and other outreach activities.’
These seem sensible ideas and is the sort of thinking which is needed up and down the country in these harsh economic times. This successful individual proves that cuts can be made without affecting the provision of services.
Dog fouling is persistent problem for Southend residents, and Councillors in Kursaal Ward are issuing a plea with people living in the area to make sure they are vigilant in keeping the streets clean
The Councillor team of Cllrs Louise Burdett, Blaine Robin and Kursaal Ward Conservative Candidate, Neil Austin are ramping up the campaign against dog fouling in the ward to raise awareness and encourage responsible practice in cleaning up after these pets. Prospective Councillor, Neil Austin, who is a lecturer at South East Essex College has been out talking to residents as part of his campaign and was surprised to find how often the issue was raised. “When we are out in the community talking to people, the issue of dog fouling is raised repeatedly by locals”, he says, “It would be a very easy problem to remedy if each and every dog owner took responsibility for clearing up their pet’s mess, so this is what we are calling for.”
Councillors Louise Burdett and Blaine Robin have been campaigning on the issue for some while to ensure that as much as possible is done to remedy the problem. They presented a petition on the issue, with over 200 signatures to the Council last July but it is clear that renewed action is required.
“We are concerned about this problem as it is not nice for residents to be confronted with dog mess on the streets on a daily basis, particularly if they do not have dogs themselves and are not part of the problem”, says Cllr Burdett, “From a Councillor perspective we are issuing a strong plea to residents out walking their dogs to make sure they act responsibly and pick up any mess when taking them out for a walk.” Cllr Robin, who has children himself, added “It is an issue causing most annoyance to young families with toddlers, prams and to wheelchair users in the ward as aside from spreading bacteria, it is incredibly unpleasant to have to clean it off.”
The ward Councillor team will be continuing to fight hard on the issue as needed in Council and through their communications with residents to make sure the situation improves.
Neil Austin has been keeping an eye on graffiti in the ward and reporting any hot spots and tags to the council for clearance