One of my roles on Colchester Council is being deputy chair of the Governance and Audit Committee, which is almost as thrilling a role as it sounds. It’s one of those jobs – checking that the council’s operations are running correctly, and that the finances are properly audited – that’s necessary for good government and democracy, but doesn’t usually generate headlines and vast public interest when it goes right.

One task the committee is dealing with this year is hopefully of more interest than our usual agenda though: reviewing how the Council runs meetings and our ways of working. The committee is looking at four different themes in order to identify ways in which we can improve the way the public democratic functions of the Council are carried out:

  • Improvement of public participation at meetings
  • Making public meetings more accessible and engaging for residents
  • Make the way we work more flexible to improve the opportunity for an increased diversity of councillors
  • Offer councillors a more efficient way of working through better use of new technology
  • So, what I want to know is: what do you think we should be doing? If you’ve been to a council meeting before, what did you like and not like about it as a member of the public? What parts did and didn’t make sense? If you’ve never been to one, what might make you attend one, or interact with it in some other way? More generally, what can we do as a council to improve the way our democratic processes interact with the public?

    haveyoursayOne thing I do want to flag up here is the Council’s Have Your Say system, which gives members of the public to right to speak at all Council meetings, either on the topics on the agenda, or on more general items. (Click on the image to the right for a breakdown of how it was used at different meetings in 2015/16) Are people aware this exists and how to use it? Would you want to see it expanded in some way or used in different ways?

    If you’ve got views on these questions or any other issues related to the review, then please let me know about them (either here, on Twitter, on Facebook or via email) so I can feed them back into the committee – or come along yourself and speak about them (there were no public speakers at all for the Governance Committee in 2015/16, so help us break that duck). The meeting’s next Tuesday at 6pm in the Grand Jury Room at the Town Hall.