Guest column: A social media strategy for Lewisham Council

Chris Maines, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Blackheath on his Mayoral ambitions and his plan to use social media to cut the cost of services in Lewisham.

Lewisham's a great place and with your help I hope to make it better. Next year I hope to become Mayor of Lewisham, and going round talking to people I face the same complaints time and again. One of the recurrent issues raised by residents is how the council feels and acts like a faceless bureaucracy.

I'm determined to fix this. But we'll face is the squeeze on resources that will make grand plans difficult. What we'll need is practical solutions that, bit by bit, make Lewisham better for everyone. Technology has the potential to help councillors to listen to people more effectively and to stay in touch with the community.

Love Lewisham isn't perfect - but it's a good example of how we can simply make Lewisham better. But I've been more inspired by the simple technologies that are already changing our community for the better:

  • Simple problem reporting websites like FixMyStreet and WritetoThem.com
  • Local community blogs and forums like Brockley Central, SE23.com and the Telegraph Hill discussion forums
  • PledgeBank - which helps people coordinate getting organised in their communities
  • And of course the hundreds of Facebook groups and websites that form around local societies

This is where you come in. Lewisham has a fantastic array of people with the technology skills to make this happen, and, crucially, to make sure that council money is not wasted the way that it has been in the past.I'd like your ideas for how Lewisham council can become better at listening and better at acting, using the amazing tools we have online. For instance:

  • What existing tools could we use to make the council more responsive?
  • For instance should we force all senior councillors and civil servants to have a blog on which they answer the public's questions regularly?
  • How can we save money on technology? For instance should we only use free or very cheap platforms like Wordpress or Blogger?
  • What is the council doing well already that we should seek to extend? For instance should we extend Love Lewisham to our efforts in cutting crime?

If, as we hope, the Liberal Democrats take control of Lewisham then we could be implementing these plans as early as May - so I urge you to give us your ideas so that we can turn them into action.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jeez, Technology only means they will hear about It quicker,wont get the job done any faster,just means they can say the job has been logged.

osh said...

definitely like the idea of councillors keeping blogs - or maybe writing columns on sites like this - and answering questions directly. A lot of them do this already of course but it should be compulsary.

What are the odds on a change of mayor this year then?

Richard Elliot said...

Get the online services working better first. I've had to change my council tax a few times (e.g. single person discount on and off, moving house) and sometimes I've never had a response.

I've not used the Love Lewisham App yet, but if this goes well you could extend that idea into more areas.

Rob Blackie said...

Osh - re the Mayoral result.

Well in 2006 Chris Maines came a reasonably close second to Labour - and the electoral system used (2nd preference votes etc.) for Mayor means only the top two really count.

Final votes in 2006 were Labour 25,000 votes, Chris Maines (Lib Dem) 18,000.

So I'd say a strong chance of Chris Maines being elected. But as an active Lib Dem you may think I'm biased! ;)

chrisgee said...

* ..should we force all senior councillors and civil servants to have a blog on which they answer the public's questions regularly?"
I am in favour of forcing Councillors to report back to people, but think how that is done should vary and be appropriate to the area they represent. They should be forced to specifically report back on the specific things they promise to achieve for their ward and their party. There should be a trial for online feedback sessions to see where it works.
* How can we save money on technology? For instance should we only use free or very cheap platforms like Wordpress or Blogger?
Free platforms can make savings but involve risk - what if the service were to be suspended or deleted, free is not always best.

"What are the odds on a change of mayor this year then?"
From the election results last time more people voted against Labour than for them. http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/DemocracyAndElections/ElectionCountsAndResults/Mayor.htm

Andrew Brown said...

"What are the odds on a change of mayor this year then?"

Sean Fear and David Boothroyd have crunched the numbers and suggest not.

maxink said...

I read those, and I felt reassured that there is a possibility for change, I think this will be a very tight race.

David Boothroyd (Labour) may be right, but his prediction is not only based on a numbers crunch, he also made one set of assumptions but not the other.
The assumption he made is that the Libdems will not increase their Mayoral vote outside the target wards but that Labour will instead retain its Mayoral vote outside their target wards.
I clearly see ways in which this assumptions can be wrong, and as he contemplates, Labour could loose Councillors. If that happened then the mayoral vote would reflect that, which means that you wouldn't need to switch many other votes before a new Mayor is elected.

The other pundit (Conservative) didn't write a motivation to his prediction so can't really say why he should be either correct or not.

patrick1971 said...

Speaking of Facebook groups, we have one for our group of streets; it's called "Manwood and around", so if you're in Manwood Road/Salehurst Road/Glynde Street/Ewhurst Road/Crofton Park Road or Bexhill Road (or nearby!), do join up!

Anonymous said...

I suspect neither Sean Fear or David Boothroyd predicted that Labour would lose Lewisham to NOC in 2006....but it happened.

Anonymous said...

Is Sir Steve standing for Mayor again?

Paul Bell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brockley Nick said...

Sorry Paul, by all means blog about those accusations and include a link here back to them, but I'd rather this thread didn't become a flame war between competing political forces, thanks.

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