Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Life at the Town Hall

Here are a few links which should be essential reading for those who walk the corridors of our Town Hall, and also for the rest of us to try and understand what goes on there.

First up we have “We love Local Government” and a post on the typical goings on in a local government office…. Like:

  • that no-one is ever too busy to tell you just how busy they are
  • Cllrs don’t read their briefings
  • Residents don’t understand what you do
  • Managers want you to explain on a side of A4 what has taken you 6 months, several 100 page documents, countless meetings and many wiki searches to understand
  • A project team will bemoan an over complex process, then demand that each of their 27 actions and seven sign off procedures are followed in order to improve it
  • the rest, click!
Next we have “Seven steps to getting communities involved” - Richard Wilson in The Guardian

1. Talk is cheap
The term consultation is a complete turn-off, so stop consulting and start action. Many of the best involvement projects, such as Envision, are led and delivered by their participants. The Envision team see themselves as facilitators helping students drive the changes they want.

2-7 here:
Of course this does rather assume that councils actually want to get their communities involved, but having said that it does sound rather like what Bob Littlewood was saying at our Coffee Morning last May. Unfortunately he is the Leader of the Opposition.

But then I somehow suspect, although I don’t know enough about it and am prepared to be proved wrong, that the leasing of Goodmayes Park Extension to Singh Sabha, [which was approved at Cabinet yesterday evening] is an example of such community action, even if some of Bob’s troops disagree.

Then we come to outgrouping. From the RSA

The advantages of having a closely connected group of quite similar advisors are obvious; loyalty, shared vision, team work, but there are disadvantages too. Teams made up of very similar individuals can become delusional, can adopt a bunker mentality and can fail to adapt to changes in circumstance. It takes a brave leader to bring in potentially disruptive individuals but sometimes it is the right thing to do.
And the wisdom of crowds may not be all it’s cracked up to be. From Big Think.

What happens if this so-called wisdom, while theoretically true, is, practically speaking, not so easy? A study just published in PNAS suggests that all it takes is a whiff of social influence (the knowledge of how others are acting) for the wisdom to evaporate – and for crowds to become even less wise than individual decision makers.
Some food for thought there, and also for B21.

Hat tips, @Noelito and @FleshisGrass


  1. Another immensely useful site I have used for a long while is Openly Local:

    and there you will find the minutes to all past meetings of your Area Committees...... I post a link here to an Area 3 Meeting to give you an idea:

  2. .. but didn't the present leader have no choice but to bring in disruptive individuals?