To consider a report from the Chief Officer Strategy and Improvement on the council’s approach to corporate communications and consultation and engagement. This item in part links to work previously undertaken in 2022/23 and in the previous year on the Council’s Contact Centre.
The report of the Chief Officer Strategy and Improvement set out the Council’s approach on the roles of communications and marketing team, and the small corporate consultation and engagement function which is part of intelligence and policy. The report outlined their roles and responsibilities, described the approach both take to their direct delivery of activity and highlighted where they may also provide broader cross-council oversight and advice.
In attendance for this item were:
· Neil Evans - Director of Resources
· Mariana Pexton - Chief Officer Strategy and Improvement (soon to be new Director of Resources)
· Cllr Coupar - Executive Member for Resources
· Mike Eakins - Intelligence and Policy Manager
· Frank Perrins - Senior Intelligence and Policy Officer
· Carl Whalley- Communications and Marketing Business Partner
The Chief Officer Strategy and Resources presented the item and informed the Board of the following points:
· This is an important set of functions which includes inter-related issues mass communication, consultations and engagement and the contact centre.
· The teams are fairly small but have a good set of expertise within them.
· The report had been good to draw out new ideas of what the teams might do in the future and these ideas were within the submitted report.
Responding to questions from Members the following information was provided:
· Many of the communications including surveys are directorate led and the teams are not involved in all pieces of work. The officers present were unable to comment on all the surveys being undertaken at this current time due to the directorate led approach. However, the teams do use their experience and learn from feedback provided by residents. All communications, surveys etc. should use plain English with no jargon, where legal jargon is required, they assist to navigate round this for ease of understanding.
· It was acknowledged that in some cases there can be a number of similar surveys taking place from different sectors and services which can cause confusion, but the teams do try and communicate with other sectors and partners to assess timing of surveys .
· The continued development of a shared access planner on MS Teams to assist with consultation planning, ensuring that subject experts have input into major consultations and to avoid the potential for duplication was welcomed by the Board and was noted as a possible work item for the next municipal year.
· The service is currently developing the MS Teams Planner, but this was in its early stages of use and is currently only used internally. It was the intention to open up access to external partners in the longer term once the approach is established across the council.
· Different forms of communication have been tried and it is recognised that not everyone is comfortable using digital forms of contact.
· It was noted that analysis was carried out to ensure that communications and surveys were sent to residents where more meaningful data would be captured on a specific issue.
· Good quality communications should have legal necessities, timeliness, be accessible, use plain English, have questions that are fit for purpose and able to draw out findings.
· Staff engagement full satisfaction surveys are undertaken every two years. Through the pandemic these were adapted to include more frequent Wellbeing Pulse Surveys to look at the personal wellbeing of staff which is fed through to management for discussion and action.
· The Budget Consultation is undertaken with both teams working together, and with Finance colleagues, to design the consultation and get results in a short time frame.
· Members requested further information on how the Voice and Influence Team communicate with children, parents and carers.
· It was suggested that the Member Updates be modified to include planned consultation and long-term aspirations for consultation.
· It was acknowledged that some service areas do include communications to Members on specific consultation and surveys.
· It was noted that moving forward it was the intention to present an annual report on consultation to Members to try to draw out key findings that could be used to improve future consultations and identify themes across different consultation exercises. It was also noted that first half of postcodes were used to analyse data and information could be provided to show how representative consultation was in the city in terms of feedback from different areas of Leeds whilst also protecting anonymity or identification.
· It was acknowledged that there was a need to balance online consultation with face to face activities but there were limited resources to deliver face to face sessions.
The Chair thanked the officers for their attendance and welcomed the suggestion of an annual report.
a) Note the content of the report and the ongoing work to enhance how the council consults and communicates with Leeds residents.
b) Continue to monitor the next steps in this work with a focus on development of an annual report on consultation and the use of a planning tool to ensure more effective and consistent consultation across the Council.
c) Consider this as a possible work programme item for municipal year 2023/24.