I’m an elected Councilor for Bude Stratton Town Council! I was voted in May 2021. I really appreciate all the support I’ve had, and those who went out and voted. Having a contested election with such an excellent turnout was amazing. Just a quick blog post with how things are coming along, in my own words and representing myself only.
To do things in an official way, everything ends up having to move very slowly. Apparently you can’t just discuss anything or raise a random item during a meeting. You have to put it on the agenda. That agenda is set in advance too, and with meetings only being twice a month it can be well over a month or more just to get the item you wish to be discussed, discussed and decided.
But despite that last night there was some real progress. It’s taken multiple meetings, both full council and Zoom meetings with all Councillors and interested staff, emails, sharing documents, but finally the council have agreed on a structure and some rules (standing orders) on how meetings should be run. Not sure why there was such a long “debate” again about it again for so long after getting everyone generally on board and to go through ideas all together (no matter who you were), but I guess that’s just politics!
The changes I’m sure will be shared via official channels but generally;
1. De-gendering the Standing Orders – no more assuming everyone is a male
2. Removing the timers on people talking – this was not accessible and a scary thing to deal with for someone who has a similar disability to me, who is unable to get out the “right words”, or who can’t really “think and talk” at the same time. This doesn’t mean people can talk non-stop, just leaves it a bit more in control of the Chair of the meeting rather than the Chair having to call it up time in 2 minutes.
3. Allowing the public to join in on the debate – public used to only have a short segment at the beginning of a full council meeting. Now they can be part of the discussion and debate themselves.
4. Using online workspace for sharing and collaboration. I was pretty shocked when I first started to discover how much was being done in email threads, getting lost, splintered off, and even there being rules about being able to “reply to all” in emails. Emails are not the way to share information, post opportunities or quick issues someone has spotted while out and about, to discuss ideas, to bring on staff and the general public, to share and comment on documentation. Can you imagine creating and managing a product by email and very occasional meets in person? Now imagine trying to manage multiple staff, premises, responsibilities, projects and issues all just using email with attached documents or a weekly meeting. We managed to vote in being able to use Teams (similar to Slack / Discord ). I’m hoping this will dramatically increase the collaboration between Councillors, the teamwork, and improve communication. Councillors will be able to work on shared documents together, start quick web calls, leave messages at whatever time they are able to work on council matters, and be able to quickly get a reply when they are out and about and talking to the public.
5. Removal of committees, breaking up large singular Town Council meetings into “Council Matters” and “Town Matters” (with Staffing and Planning separate), promoting workgroups which can be created dynamically and can be run in whichever way they need to in order to get the job done. This makes so much sense! Not every meeting has to be a debate, and there’s so many tools we use in the creative industry to discuss and talk through ideas. We now have the ability to do mindmaps, use post-its, list pros and cons etc. At these workgroups we can also have members of the public, consultants, and experts come in and be our equals. It’s a green light to involve the public so much more.
Now there’s structures in place, and a proper workspace solution coming along, then hopefully we’ll be able to start working so much more together and with the general public.
In other news I’ve been doing unofficial streams of every Town Council meeting so far. I only just learnt about “Highlighting” to keep videos for longer than two weeks but last night’s meeting can be seen here; https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1072393201 . I’ve been trying really hard to make sure we keep streaming and having online meetings to allow anyone to still be able to take part. The room we should be moving to will be much better fitted to streaming, and I’ve created a briefing document to the IT team to help get a formal Town Council solution up and running ASAP.
Other key things I’ve been doing is;
– Meeting staff, getting to understand their skills and workload
– Exploring the facilities
-Meeting with the Pearl Exchange
-Reviewing the grants application form to make it much more user friendly
-Reporting instances where vegetation has grown too far into a footpath
-Starting to write a diversity and accessibility policy
-Exploring the different software solutions for the public being able to submit and track issues so they know who is assigned to an issue, when it’s due for debate, and when their issue has been fixed
-Continuing to add to a Trello board I personally started in regards to issues raised in the town
-Discussed issues around traffic and parking in the town and made a board to track possible solutions and ideas
-Arrange for a YouTube film maker to come to Bude to cover it’s rail and canal history
-Getting a meeting between Cornwall Councillor and Bude Primary in regards to the dangers and upkeep of the footpath and road at the top of Broadclose Road
-Investigating childcare for Town Council meetings to allow Councillors and general public to be able to take part even if they have small children
-Helping to iterate on other ideas and documents that are being sent around
I’m sure there’s plenty of other bits and bobs too. Been busy trying to get onboarded with everything while also trying to move forward with making the Town Council much more accessible to all 🙂
Feel free to contact me if you do have any issues in Bude – my email in regards to politics and Town Council is firstname.lastname@example.org .