The Principal Democratic Officer:
a) presented a report which invited members to consider the manner in which support was offered to elected members by officers;
b) outlined the support currently provided to members with regard to:
· IT provision;
· ward surgeries;
· member enquiries and a protocol for response times;
· member casework.
c) highlighted that the budget associated with the provision of leaflets for members was currently overspent and that this particular aspect of member support was under review;
d) invited members' questions and comments.
In discussing the allocation of leaflets for members, the following comments were noted:
· it would be useful to see a breakdown of how many leaflets were ordered for each particular ward or individual member;
· members who did not hold surgeries were still entitled to order leaflets to ensure that residents knew who they were and how they could contact them;
· leaflets, and surgeries, were a way of members publicising themselves and the authority. It was a members’ duty to make themselves available to residents, with the provision of leaflets assisting them with this aspect of their role;
· in terms of printing, the current quality of paper used for leaflets was very good. Consideration should therefore be given to using a cheaper grade of paper which would probably reduce costs;
· it was noted that information relating to member surgeries was available on the Council’s website, a link for which was included in the Council’s magazine ‘Your Lincoln’, delivered to all residents of the city on a quarterly basis. The point was made that not all residents had access to the internet, so making use of leaflets was an important method of providing information on the dates, times and venues of upcoming surgeries;
· members of the public attending surgeries could be asked how they had found out about the details of the surgery, which could be logged;
· consideration should be given to printing leaflets in black and white, rather than colour;
· consideration should be given to ordering leaflets in bulk at a certain time of the year, rather than on an ad-hoc basis, which should secure a reduced rate;
· each ward was different in the way in which surgeries were held and leaflets were used, particularly where wards consisted of members from different political groups;
· it was important to balance effectiveness with cost;
· there should be more use of social media to promote member surgeries.
A claim was made that some leaflets in the past had contained information within them that could be construed as political. It was emphasised that leaflets should contain factual information only regarding the individual member or the ward surgery. The Legal and Democratic Services Manager gave an assurance that any concerns in this respect would be highlighted by Democratic Services prior to the leaflets being ordered.
In discussing member enquiries and a protocol for response times, it was agreed that members consistently received answers to queries from officers in a timely manner and that no related problems had been reported.
RESOLVED that a further report setting out the options for the provision of leaflets to members, taking into account the comments raised at this meeting, be considered at the next meeting of the Ethics and Engagement Committee.