Council seeks to connect

Martine Haley

THE Derwent Valley community will be asked to take part in a survey which will be used to improve the way the local council communicates to ratepayers and residents. This week’s council meeting will vote on whether to support a Communications and Engagement Policy and Framework, plus revised communications strategy.
It will be the first formal communications policy and engagement framework for the council which in the agenda concedes it often has an “ad-hoc and inconsistent’’ approach to community consultation.

The State Government is in the process of reviewing the Local Government Act and has proposed reform so that “all councils will develop and adopt a community engagement strategy that outlines how councils will engage, involve, consult and inform their communities on plans, projects and policies.” To date, the Derwent Valley Council has not had a policy or standard procedure to conduct community engagement. The lack of a policy has put limits on “the ability for councillors to make fully informed decisions that consider diverse stakeholder and community views and exposes the council to reputational risk.“

Mayor Ben Shaw welcomed the communications strategy going out for public comment.
“Councils are regularly criticised for not communicating or poor communication, most of the time the problem of misunderstanding or lack of understanding around process is the issue here,’’ Mr Shaw said.“
So it’s very important that we consult with our community around the best ways to communicate between council and its stakeholders and once we’ve done that set the expectations, acknowledge them and love them.
“I must admit since my time on council I think we’ve gotten so much better in outwardly telling the community what we are doing, with a new website, social media and employing our own communications team.
“It’s certainly the best communication I’ve ever seen in this community, but we can always do more and generally we can do better and should to keep our ratepayers informed.“ I’m looking forward to the results and implementation of our strategy.’

If supported, the survey will open later this week and close on July 18.This week’s council agenda said a Community Engagement Policy and Framework would provide the basis for communicating decisions, sharing perspectives, improving transparency and building trust between the council the community and other partners’’.
“As a first step in developing the policy and framework, a ‘Communications and Engagement Survey’ will be conducted to understand how council can best communicate and engage with residents and stakeholders on projects, plans and strategies that affect their lives. “The upcoming ‘communications and engagement survey’ will be a key opportunity for community members to tell us how they would like to be informed and consulted.“

This feedback will help inform the policy and framework, as well as a revised communications strategy.“Councillor support to promote the upcoming survey will help to ensure a robust policy and framework is developed that will better serve Council and the community.

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