Cllr Tony Tomkinson, from Clavering in Norfolk, started blogging in January 2008 as part of the civicsurf project. His main objective was to use his blog to maintain communications with the 25 parish clerks in his constituency.
I’m sure some of the people leaving comments had been to the meeting but by using the blog they are able to ensure their views are in the public domain. Possibly some had not been able get to speak at the meeting. Also of interest is that people from outside the village were able to contribute including those with experience of gravel pits.
The post is a superb example of how using a blog a civic leader can gather considered and in-depth views from a wide range of people with a wide range of views. The blog hasn’t replaced the village public meeting but it has complemented it very well. Although Tony is prevented by his position as a councillor from expressing an opinion before the Planning committee meeting, he is providing leadership by encouraging discussion and opinion through having a place for that discussion to take place.
I don’t watch Countdown and I have a sneaking suspicion that neither does Gordon Brown, so it was a little surprising to see this clip on YouTube he recorded last year.
I don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of whether the PM should be recording such congratulations but I do believe that politicians should use their own “voice”. In this clip Gordon Brown grins, grimaces, lifts his voice, gets serious within seconds of each other making him look as though he is in the panto. The point is that if you’re going to talk directly to your constituency do so in a voice that they will recognise as you and that you can use consistently.
A new report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation about the role of backbench councillors says:
there is a recognition that councillors will need new skills and techniques to engage different communities of interest and place that go beyond traditional ward surgeries and formal meetings. Action planning, negotiating community agreements, household surveys, community websites and councillor blogs [my emphasis] were among the suggestions put forward – all of which would require new, and more intensive, types of support from local authorities.
Members who are currently representing diverse communities felt that future councillors would need specifi c skills to help them understand and identify with a range of cultural values, including different conceptions of democracy and local political engagement.