At the beginning of the month Simon Whitehouse asked me lead a session at the last Birmingham Brewcamp, where people ‘drink tea, eat cake, learn stuff’, by outlining what I’d like from Birmingham City Council that I felt was currently lacking. My answer was instant and very simple: ‘A relationship.’
Let me elaborate on that a little – I find communication with Birmingham City Council difficult, it never feels forthcoming. Councillors very rarely attend Digbeth Residents’ Association meetings (I think Councillor Yvonne Mosquito has attended a couple of times over the years) and since our treasured Neighbourhood Manager Andy Sheppard was made redundant, there has been no council presence at Digbeth Residents’ Association meetings, which is a pity (and contrast to the good attendance from local police officers).
When looking for a response from Birmingham City Council with stuff I’ve done on Digbeth is Good, I’ve always found getting one a bit of an uphill struggle, be it waiting in vain for replies to repeated emails to local Councillors about the empty Moseley Road houses in which two squatters died in a fire or asking the press office for a statement about that AWOL Big City Plan bus incident back in 2009.
Many thanks to Kelly Quigley-Hicks, who was at the Brewcamp and wrote a great round-up of the session the following day.
Anyway, once I’d finished what was admitedly a bit of a frustrated moan (sorry about that) the conversation turned to possible ways of turning this state of affairs around and positively engaging with a local council. Then Dan Slee came up with the brainwave of pooling the suggestions with an open-edit spreadsheet: 101 ways to communicate with your council. It would be great if you could contribute, the more imaginative the suggestions, the better!
You’ll notice next to the ‘means of communication’ column there’s another asking you to rate it as either Passive, Aggressive, or Passive-Aggressive. I don’t doubt this classification is overly simplistic and it’s not meant to be taken terribly seriously, just gauge whether you’re making a gentle approach in the hope of a response, exerting gentle pressure to try and encourage one if you don’t feel it is/will be forthcoming or asking for a response in a way that makes refusal difficult or impossible (such as an FOI request).
I’ve put a few means of communication on the spreadsheet to kick things off, I can’t wait to see some other suggestions!