Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, former Head of Policy at LGiU, offers both glass half-full and glass half-empty visions for the council of the future.
Councils will have embraced new technology to really engage their citizens in shaping how their area looks and the type of services their councils provide. For example council meetings will be open to public questions via Skype or social media with all council meetings being readily available live and via digital download to people’s homes. Meetings whether taking place virtually or face to face will have a strong interactive element for citizens to encourage active engagement in the oversight and direction of Council policy. It will be possible for local people to easily download key council documents such as financial costings and interrogate council reports via an automatic online response system.
Good councils will understand the need for technology to sustain and enhance face-to-face interaction and good quality support services for their community rather than replacing them with it.
The council will focus on who can best deliver their services locally with a strong emphasis on employing the local population and skilling the next generation on the vital role public services play in creating strong, vibrant, inclusive and effective communities.
The above is what I hope will happen but it is just as possible given the current climate that councils will simply co-ordinate a range of services provided by the private sector within a strong market focus. There will be little meaningful community engagement or commitment to quality with council services being restricted to those that can’t afford a market solution themselves.