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In July, the Local Government Association (LGA) published a green paper to encourage debate about devolution. One of the key questions it asks is: How can we make sure our residents are engaged?

Statistics have shown that 77% of the population trust the council over central government to make decisions affecting their area. With this level of faith, local authorities are in a good position to actually engage constituents over decisions that affect them.

It’s Councils after all, who deliver more than 800 local services that impact our daily lives. Yet their hands are tied because many do not have the power to run services in the way that works best for them.

However, powers are gradually shifting and devolution deals now exist in nearly a dozen areas in England. It makes sense then, that greater local powers should be accompanied by matching levels of accountability.

This takes resource though – how are officers expected to do more with less funding? Especially considering the impacts of cuts are so uneven and localised.

 

Doing more with less

With resource implications in mind, we worked with several audio providers to automate the process of streaming a meeting. Our software is now integrated with all leading audio systems including Televic, BOSCH, Beyer Dynamic and RCF. As soon as someone switches on their microphone our cameras will automatically pan to that speaker. All the Officer has to do is start and stop the stream, which can be done via tablet from anywhere in the room. We’ve also developed real-time vote results for important local debates. As soon as a vote has been cast using the microphones, the results will be displayed alongside the video. We can now offer this functionality to councils using BOSCH and Televic microphone systems.

 

Considering governance and accountability

According to ‘Cards on the table: English devolution and governance’, an early consideration of these two areas is crucial to the success of devolution. Public-i has been working closely with Modern.Gov who are the leading supplier of paperless governance solutions. Our aim was to reduce the time it takes officers to manage meetings whilst demonstrating good governance and accountability. The system integration means a member of staff only needs to upload agenda and contextual information once – through Modern.Gov. This information will then appear automatically alongside our video stream. The synchronisation allows you to transfer speaker details, attendance records, declarations and registers of interest, simplifying transparency of decision making.

 

The rules of engaging more people

When engaging residents, we’ve found it’s best to speak through the same channels as them. That’s why our solution includes sophisticated social media integration to encourage comments, Tweets, and shares. Regional elections in May 2017 could mean people look to local leaders to get things done in future. Bristol City Council and Brighton and Hove City Council use social media alongside streaming to demonstrate true engagement with constituents.

The green paper states that “the devolution debate must be led by innovation” – live streaming can help engage enough people in the discussion.

Public-i will be attending ADSO 16 on Thursday 24th and 25th November where the theme is ‘Spotlight on Governance – your role, your future’. Join us for discussions on public sector reforms including devolution and the impact on Democratic Services.

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