Moray Council seek to find better methods of public engagement

Massive budget cuts need better engagement with the public

COUNCILLORS WILL THIS week discuss means of finding a better way of communicating and consulting with the public on the financial challenges faced by Moray Council.

A meeting of the Full Council on Wednesday is being presented with a paper that proposes ways the local authority can better engage with the public.

It follows a deluge of misinformation surrounding the issue of Council Tax increases when Moray proposed an 18% increase earlier this year – at the time the insideMoray social media page was widely used as a conduit for information between leading Councillors and the Moray public.

It became clear then that there was widespread misunderstanding over many of the issues being faced in Moray and throughout Scotland by local councils.

Now the paper being discussed, prepared by Mark Palmer who is responsible for corporate services at Moray Council, specifies the challenges faced in communicating issues to the public and methods in which the they might be more engaged in the decision making process.

In his report, Mr Palmer says: “Decisions about council services being reduced to match to the resources available will have to be made, but this is an ongoing process and the changes necessary will be so much the better if engagement and participation with communities can be achieved as part of the way in which services are delivered.

“Ideally, over the next few years community engagement will develop through the following phases:

  • Greater awareness of the challenges faced by the council
  • Greater acceptance of the need for change and the options to be considered (including stopping/reducing service provision)
  • Greater dialogue on the changes that need to be made
  • Participation in the design and implementation of change.”

Using methods such as participatory budgeting, which has already seen progress with meetings arranged and held in recent weeks, Moray Council hopes to achieve an understanding of the difficult choices the council will be forced to make to balance the budget, create an opportunity to identify priorities and to identify services that communities could run with less support from the council.

The overall aim of the policy is, according to the report, “to raise greater awareness of the financial challenges faced by the council and provide an opportunity for community groups and individuals to influence how services will be changed.”