Recently I had the honor to to be invited to speak at Rushcliffe’s Town and Parish Conference. The subject was to be “The Use of I.T. and Social Media in Engaging the Community”.
This was, I felt, a tall order. Parish and Town Councils in general do not have a strong track record of community engagement through I.T. Many councils have a website of some kind but not many use them. New legislation surrounding the auditing of Parish and Town Councils could well change this state of affairs. Councils of a certain size will not be audited as a matter of course in the future. However there is a new requirement that more documents than before must be published and made available in the name of transparency. This particularly will effect smaller councils (with a turnover of £6.5m or less per year). Most of the councils in the Rushcliffe Borough in fact.
It seems to be the nature of Parish and Town Councils that their members are middle aged or more. The work that they do is important. In no way do I intend to imply otherwise. But. And there is one. Older people are less likely to use social media or websites to either disseminate information or engage with local communities. A quick show of assent at the conference bore this out. Many delegates did not actively maintain their council websites and did not engage with Twitter or Facebook. I cannot believe that the issue is strictly a technical deficiency, I think there has been cultural shift in how we as citizens engage and communicate that has found Parish and Town Councils left behind and facing a seemingly long haul to catch up. Maybe the legislative stick of published transparency is the incentive for some to begin that journey?