Despite the current “stay at home” restrictions which is making face to face meetings impossible, councillors at Rotherham Council has remained available for residents to contact if they require support on community and council issues. In light of the need to reduce face to face contact in order to save lives, all advice surgeries will now be taking place by telephone or online only.
Councillor Emma Hoddinott is working with her other two ward councillors to host a “virtual” surgery every Monday evening between 6pm and 6:30pm. They are using a Zoom Pro subscription to run these sessions due to the additional functions that are included in this package. The waiting room function in particular allows the councillor to let residents wait while the councillors are already hosting a meeting with another resident.
If the resident has a computer with a webcam, they can videocall via a link on the council’s website and they can also find the link on social media. The resident can also dial in by telephone to the same system by calling the number and entering a meeting ID.
The processes were tested beforehand with the other ward councillors where they held a couple of dry runs to ensure the links, dialling options and the waiting room function worked. The councillor is the controller of the meeting and administrates the call for the half an hour slots.
In addition, councillors have embraced online visual methods of promoting council work to residents. Video updates have been immensely popular to communicate updates to residents covering changes to services or other important information such as bus timetables or bin collection changes through Facebook live videos. Viewership is often higher after the video when residents can watch the updates at their convenience this proves that this format has reach in communities and is a viable way of continuing local democracy functions.
#Councillors found that it was surprising how similar this was to a usual surgery. The councillors recommended that continuing to act as normal as possible was key and maintaining or increasing regular appointments is key – it is great to remain visible to the community and offer them help if they need it through as many mediums, whether that be phone, video conferencing, social media, email.
Visual often simplifies messaging over written forms of updates and can be highly successful at reaching audiences and spreading important updates.
Christopher Burton Head of Communications