Working with communities
Working with Communities
Many councillors stand for office because they want to make a difference in their local community, fix a local problem or to give something back to the community that has supported them. Although you will spend time in council meetings, much of your time will be spent within your communities, speaking and working with members of the public and community groups.
Councils need to work with local people to design, commission and deliver services and to monitor whether they are working. They should also help local communities to support themselves. Councillors, because of their unique position within the community, have a vital role in leading this work.
Councillors as Community Leaders
For the individual councillor, being a community leader can mean many things:
- Making sure that the views of local people are taken into account when policies and decisions are made. This will include making sure that everyone has a say, not just those that speak loudest. You will also need to speak to the hard to reach or the disengaged.
- Making sure that the council is aware of the needs of people in your community. You will need to know what everyone in your community needs, not just those who tell you what they want.
- Empowering your community to support itself. Organising people to act, share information or develop skills so that they become less dependent on the council.
- Enabling the council and local people to work together to get things done. This is sometimes called co-production and is based upon an equal and reciprocal approach to delivering services.
- Encouraging joint working between and within communities, and across councils, if this is the best way of working.
- Raising local concerns and working with others to tackle local issues such as homelessness, parking, litter and crime.
Getting to Know Your Community
You may have lived or worked in your community or ward for many years, but you may not know all the different groups of people that live there and all their changing challenges.
Find out more about familiarising yourself with your local area and community.
The problems and issues local people raise with councillors are usually called ‘casework’.
Your casework will come from: online or face to face conversations, social media, letters, telephone calls and emails, surgeries, advice sessions and doorstep calls, campaigning and other political activity.
Whilst we cannot predict or control everything that might happen to us, there are some steps we might choose to take to mitigate and avoid risk. .
Security-Minded Communications (SMC)
As Elected Officials you will both want and need to communicate your surgeries and forthcoming events. However, as well as providing important and useful information to the public, these details also provide information to individuals who may be planning a malicious act.
As not sharing this information may adversely affect your ability for the public to meet with you, this risk can be mitigated. For example, providing this information alongside information about what measures are in place or have been undertaken to help keep the public, elected officials, and staff safe and secure may act as a deterrent.
Also, offering more generic information such ‘Cllr X will be visiting local business to support Y’ rather than ‘Cllr X will be visiting Sam’s Hair Salon, E. Z. Bakes and The Village Florist to discuss Y’ will limit exact details of your schedule.
This protective security approach is known as ‘security-minded communications’ (SMC) which is a method used to inform, reassure and recruit the public to be part of the security effort by explaining what you are doing to help keep constituents safe, and encouraging them to be part of it by being vigilant and reporting anything unusual.