Sir Albert Bore explains how Birmingham City Council is embracing technology as part of the #BrumBudget15 consultation.
Throughout my political career interaction with the people of Birmingham has been face-to-face, either on doorsteps, at advice bureaux or in public meetings. I value this important interaction, as Iâ€™m sure every politician in the city does.
Now, advances in technology mean there are other ways to interact with the public. Thatâ€™s why the budget consultation we launched earlier this week is using webcasting to reach a much greater audience.
And the result is that more people than ever are aware of the issues as we face tougher spending decisions than ever before.
Traditionally the budget consultation has involved a series of public meetings and last December my cabinet colleagues and I attended four public meetings across the city to answer questions about the 2014/15 budget. A total of 287 people attended these meetings.
A month later, cabinet tried something different, taking part in a webcast to answer questions about the budget online. We recorded 517 views for the two-hour event and the archive was then viewed 2,004 times â€“ taking the total views to just over 2,500.
2,500 against 287 speaks for itself, so this year weâ€™ve opted for two public meetings and two webcasts â€“ the first of which was aired on Wednesday (10 December).
This time around we had just shy of 1,000 views for the live event (974) and as I write this, the archive has been viewed a further 1,100 times. So weâ€™re well on the way to surpassing last yearâ€™s webcast ratings.
The consultation isn’t all online though and a public meeting 24 hours later was attended by 101 people. We have another public meeting in Erdington on 15 December as we consult via traditional and digital methods.
As with the January webcast, the event was chaired â€“ free of charge â€“ by Birmingham journalist Dan Dawson and he put questions submitted by the public to myself and my cabinet colleagues.
The audience can then tune-in to see us answering the questions and explaining the budget situation.
The webcast ran for almost two hours and we answered every question submitted, discussing a wide range of topics, including libraries, social care, mental health, HS2 and much more.
On the face of it, the webcasts are no different to our public meetings. The questions are similar and the public get an opportunity to voice concerns and put us on the spot.
But there are some differences:
- People can participate from the comfort of their own homes. Going along to a meeting is much more of a time commitment and some people are unable to attend events for a variety of reasons.
- People who might find it difficult to voice a question in a public meeting can now do so online
- Finally, if you miss a public meeting, the opportunity is gone. But with the webcasts you can view the archive at a time to suit you.
Weâ€™ll be back in the hotseat for a second webcast on 7 January and I would urge anyone interested in the future of local government in Birmingham to tune-in and have their say.
You can view the 10 December webcast here: http://www.birmingham.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/158658
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