It’s a hard one to know where to start on relating tonight’s meeting. It was clear over the last couple of weeks that both Walsall Council and various partners were pulling into full force their social media power to turn out people to tonight’s event.
We can all question the ability of social media to engage with local people and personally I’ve always been an advocate but with the caveat that it isn’t the be all and end all that some might think or wish it to be so.
However, the end result and I’m happy for anyone to dispute my figures. Tonight I counted 7 members of the public – lost count of the people who were ‘Partners but there was the usual 8 councillors for Willenhall wards minus Val Woodruff who I’m screwed if I can remember the last time she bothered to turn up for a meeting plus an army or officiers from the council and partners like the police.
I noted that the official Walsall Council Media Unit bod only took photographs down the centre of meeting towards the Chair because if they’d gone to the left they would have been met with the rows of empty chairs or right then they’d be met with the backs of heads of numerous council officers and those from partner organisations.
As a local councillor I know how hard it is sometimes to engage with people, it’s certainly not a party political issue and I’m sure across all parties irrespective of their persuasion we would all agree that getting local residents involved and perhaps more importantly – informed is a shared desire.
However I do question the direction the current administration in Walsall is going in relation to Area Partnerships and (although in principle I am open to devolved budget decision making) how we really interact with residents and make those decisions especially when turnout even at these high profile public meetings is so low.