Communications and Engagement Report
- Meeting of Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday 9 February 2022 6.00 pm (Item 8.)
Councillor Mohammed Butt (Leader, Brent Council) introduced the report, outlining the key themes and issues. In terms of consultation and engagement, it was noted as being vital for the Council to effectively work with partner organisations in order to establish tangible outcomes. This could be seen from the Council’s response to Covid-19, working with the NHS and community groups as well as Councillors to ensure that effective messaging was being conveyed to residents. A tangible positive outcome was cited as being the purchase of the Picture Palace building in Harlesden, to be used as a community asset and for the benefit of the community. This was assisted by engagement and consultation over a number of years. Additionally, there had been youth engagement events in the Borough which had taken place in Brent Civic Centre.
The Committee was then invited to raise questions on the update provided, which focussed on a number of key areas as highlighted below:
· In relation to public engagement, it was queried if the Council could do more public engagement in terms of decisions, to which it was answered that there had been engagement with the council’s budget proposals, as well as holding webinars and social media sessions regarding Covid-19 updates. The new online portal, Citizens Lab, was also referenced as a tool to engage residents. It was noted that alongside more traditional approach, the council had also moved to a community asset based approach in terms of communications and engagement.
· Further to this point, it was asked what more the council could do to engage residents, to which it was answered that data analytics played a key role, and that it was key to understand what issues mattered to residents in order to maximise engagement. It was also updated that there was an emphasis on ‘hyperlocal’ work and the co-production of council policy.
· In relation to the data analytics and visits to the Council’s website, it was asked whether an age breakdown of those visiting the site was provided, to which it was clarified that due to anonymity this data was not provided.
· The Committee asked for clarification on the roles that Councillors could play in communication and engagement in the Borough, to which it was clarified that Councillor expertise had been utilised in council webinars as well as publicity campaigns and as part of the response to Covid-19 in order to reach different communities.
· It was asked whether there was enough resource for the council to carry out its full scope of communication and engagement, to which it was responded that a sensible approach was required, with the approach being for communities to be empowered, with the council working as a facilitator.
· In terms of residents who did not have access to technology, it was asked how messaging would be relayed. It was updated that skills training had been administered through Brent Hubs, as well as recognising the importance of returning to face to face services and ensuring that accessibility requirements were met.
· It was asked how the council was providing residents with access to external information, advice and services, to which it was responded that work had been undertaken with mutual aid groups in the Borough, as well as in Brent Hubs, Family Wellbeing Centres and Town Centre Managers. This was with a view to providing a more localised approach in the Borough. In terms of online engagement, it was noted that programmatic advertising was used to communicate with harder to reach communities.
· In regards to community groups, it was asked how it was ensured that representatives from these group were communicating the needs of their community, to which it was responded that it was vital to have a wide range and demographic and residents, particularly from younger age cohorts. As well as engaging with resident and community groups, it was important to get a more diverse and wider audience to contribute. It was also noted that Councillors played a key role in identifying members of the community who could contribute to council policy.
· In a question around accessibility, it was asked how the deaf community were supported in terms of consultation, to which it was answered that facilitators could use subtitles for online events, as well as hearing loops being provided for live events as well as sign interpretation in English and other languages.
It was RESOLVED:
(1) The Committee made the following information requests:
· To receive further information on resident groups; namely the membership of these groups and how the Council ensures they are representative of local communities