The Democratic Team Leader and Elections Manager reported that the Performance Scrutiny Committee in considering a report on electoral registration at its meeting on 24 January 2019 had referred this item to the Ethics and Engagement Committee following discussion on member engagement and raising the profile of members, the Council’s public meetings and the City Council as a whole. The Ethics and Engagement Committee was therefore invited to discuss such matters of democratic engagement, during which the following points were noted:
· people did not understand the difference between the City Council and the County Council and had no idea what elected members did;
· people may feel more motivated to use their democratic right and vote if they had more understanding;
· more could be done via social media to promote the role of members, as well as focus on the work of specific committees;
· the event held by this Committee at the Guildhall celebrating the centenary of women’s right to vote was a good example of successful engagement with a range of community groups and school children;
· some Council’s recorded their meetings, although this was not necessarily the type of engagement that members were keen to achieve;
· members did engage with residents at ward level and whilst this was engagement activity, it did not necessarily cover all dimensions of what the Council did;
· the member area of the website, including member profiles and photographs, should be updated and refreshed;
· consideration should be given to promoting the Council’s meetings on social media, highlighting when agendas were published and reminding people that meetings were open to the public. Alerts via social media prior to or during meetings would also be beneficial, ensuring that people had the opportunity to be informed or know more about items of business or issues being considered;
· consideration should be given to holding meetings off-site and rolling meetings out across the city. It was acknowledged that this had been attempted before and that, unfortunately, it made no difference to the number of public attendees;
· there was a perception of disconnect between local people and the Council, which demonstrated that there must be an issue to address with regard to how the authority engaged with its residents.
The Council’s Communications Manager welcomed the comments made but highlighted, in his experience, that this was not a problem unique to Lincoln. He added that one of the most successful promotional pieces carried out recently was a document setting out the different responsibilities of the City Council and the County Council, which received a significant number of ‘hits’, ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ via social media. It was noted that work would take place to improve the member section of the Council’s website in due course.
It was agreed that members of the Ethics and Engagement Committee should email the Democratic Team Leader and Elections Manager with any suggestions as to how the Council could better engage with residents. In addition, it was agreed that an all-member development session on improving community engagement would be held after the City Council elections in May 2019.