Engaging with your community to estabilish priorities and present your council’s plan going forward can be difficult, with a lack of attention being paid to traditional documents. Shropshire Council’s chief executive, Kim Ryley, pictured, talks about how they are throwing away the rule book and putting together their new Council Plan.
We threw out the rule book when we were putting together our new Council Plan, because we wanted to make it easier for our residents to get actively involved in the important decisions which affect their lives.
The Council Plan is about making sure our residents are clear about what Shropshire Council is aiming to do over the coming three years: What are our priorities? How are we going to deliver our services? How will we reduce our costs, without lowering quality?
People’s expectations of their local council have changed quickly over the past couple of years – particularly in terms of how we communicate and engage with the public – so the thought of printing a traditionally dry council document just didn’t feel right.
In these times of unprecedented change, changing this approach seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so we tried something new.
Out went the traditional paper document and in came an electronic, interactive, living publication, full of video clips of local people talking about how the council can improve the lives of Shropshire residents. It’s not just councillors and officers talking either – with partnership working and localism being so important nowadays, we felt it was essential to involve local businesses and community groups as active participants in our plan for the future.
The Council Plan will be updated regularly, as we make progress in achieving our desired outcomes and a better quality of life for local people. In the previous format, it was pretty much out of date the minute it was printed, but now we can add new video clips or more information as things develop, keeping it always timely and relevant, at little extra cost.
The plan is available on the web, which means that, as well as being cheaper, it is accessible in people’s living rooms, as opposed to just being in local libraries for those who knew where to look.
It allows the council to reach more of our residents, providing an interactive platform for people to receive more up-to-date information on our activities and ambitions. It gives our customers and citizens faster and easier ways to get in touch, allowing them to give feedback quickly about the services they receive, by using social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter.
This is just one of the ways in which we are rethinking the way we connect with the lives of our residents. Such creativity can already be seen in the redesign of many of our services too.
The council’s Leader, Councillor Keith Barrow, said of the plan:
“Planning for the future is vitally important at the council. This plan is produced every three years and usually consists of a lengthy document which costs a considerable amount to produce but is not easily accessible to our customers. As part of making major savings at the council, this year we have decided to do things differently, and the council plan is no exception.
“The public can navigate through the interactive plan, watch videos on what we have been doing, what we hope to be doing, and most importantly where we will be going in the future. We are designing services and solutions that fit locally, provide value for money and respect the differences between our communities. This gives local people direct involvement in how our services for them are delivered.
“I would encourage all residents to take the time to look at the plan. I hope it really gives them a flavour of Shropshire Council and of the challenges we are setting ourselves for the benefit of the people who live in, work in and visit our county.”
The plan also describes the new ways of working the council is putting in place, and how it will direct its activities on what matters most:
- Flourishing Shropshire communities
- Economic growth and prosperity
- Better health and well-being
- Better educational attainment and work placed skills
- Greater public confidence
Kim Ryley, chief executive, Shropshire Council
Share your scheme
Does your council have an example of best practice you can share with your counterparts in other local authorities?
Get in contact now and tell me about them