Wednesday, 25 March 2009

An engaging day at the office

One meeting either side of lunch had me effectively marooned at the Civic Centre for most of the working day today, and both of them impacted greatly on the Community Group's drive to engage the communities we serve.

Before lunch I accompanied the indefatigable Christine Diwell, Secretary of The Isleworth Society (TIS), at a lengthy meeting with a senior officer of the council to discuss a matter of serious import to the Isleworth & Brentford Area Committee (IBAC), of which she is a co-opted member.

It is by no means unknown to me that there are still officers who resent having to interact with and explain themselves to "ordinary" members of the community - be it TIS, MRAG or whoever - but at a council which takes Community Empowerment seriously this mindset is shortly to change, drastically and for the better. Following a long discussion Christine and I were able to gain a better understanding of the issue at hand, and at the same time were able to express some valid concerns about process.

Then after lunch I had the pleasure of a frank hour-long discussion with two ladies who were part of a team provided by the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) to help assess our approach to Community Engagement as a local authority. The team will be interviewing councillors from across the political spectrum who volunteer to take part in the project, and its findings will be published in a few weeks' time.

It will be interesting to have an outside perspective on what we already do to consult and include the people who elected us to office in the process of local government, and how we can improve things in this respect. Any advice received will be fed into what already looks to be shaping up as an exciting and innovative programme under the portfolio of my Community Group colleague Councillor Paul Fisher.

I am very much looking forward to the year ahead and to the opportunities which at last seem to be falling into place to change the culture of our local authority and engage with our communities in a way that we've never done before.

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