By Canterbury Labour Party / Opinion / 0 Comments

Have you had your say? How council consultation fails to spark interest

I’ve just clicked “send” on my personal submission to the City Council’s Community Governance Review. You switched off yet?

The truth is that the Community Governance Review is extremely important and yet no one is talking about it.

Currently 70% of people living in Canterbury district don’t have any sort of town or parish council. The other 30% have parish councils who demand an additional £50-60 a year which they spend on public spaces, local facilities and a more local approach to planning. The consultations asks the 70%, is this fair and do you want a new system?

For someone lives in a town which has lost its Christmas lights, seen its local festivals changed beyond all recognition and public land dubiously sold from under the nose of the local community – it would seem that government closer to the ground might be a good thing. But this is not the place to outline the four suggestions the Council give to solving this problem. Rather as I clicked “send” I wondered; am I the only one under 35 doing this?

Rumours online are that this decision which could effect over 100,000 has had as few as 150 online submissions and I would wager most of those are over 60.

When I recently attended the local Area Members Panel to hear more about the proposals I was, bar the twelve year olds sitting in their football kit petitioning the council to not flip flop on letting them build a new stadium, the only one under 35. The meeting was long, disorganised, aggressive and everything which turns people of politics.

Last weekend I went camping with a friend whose in market research and over the fire we talked about how the council could have reached out better. We talked about the importance of mixed media rather than long complicated forms you need a degree to read, the importance of local champions, pop up stands on the high street, using the mailing lists of local schools, doctors and community centres, better use of the newspapers and even a catchier name. Online I’ve heard local Conservative Councillors suggest Facebook advertising which strikes me as obvious, not innovation.

We both concluded that whilst democratic, “town hall style meetings” simple don’t make the grade. People who are busy with the kids, scared of going out at night and worried about the cost of public transport simply won’t go. Those who might need a lot more encouragement that seeing a raggedy poster on the community notice board. Hell you could speak to more than 200 people sat outside Tesco for a couple of hours.

If the plans for a town council does go through – I can see some people complaining that they weren’t consulted about a decision which could cost them another £100 a year in council tax. Ironically, an exercise designed to explore whether or not we need government at a more local level has only provided more evidence that the council doesn’t have its ear to the ground.

If you haven’t filled out the survey yet, please do. You have until the 8th October to have your say at