Council’s Communication and Engagement Strategy reviewed
A review of Bass Coast Shire Council’s Communications and Engagement Strategy 2015- 2018 was adopted at the March Ordinary Council Meeting. The Strategy provides the framework on the way Council communicates and engages with the community.The review considered the implementation of the Strategy’s objectives and identified that Council has addressed 100 per cent of the actions from the Strategy.
Strategy highlights include the successful use and uptake of social media and other digital medium and decreased reliance on consultants and contractors to deliver communication services. This has resulted in financial savings of approximately $100,000 per year and reflected positive trends in Community Satisfaction Survey results and increased engagement numbers.
Council has also been the recipient of local government awards, acknowledging outstanding community engagement in developing the Council Plan 2017-21.The review also identified other successful community engagement campaigns, such as the implementation of the new three-bin system, Youth Action Plan 2016-20, Phillip Island and San Remo Visitor Economy Strategy 2035 and Future Wonthaggi project.
The review also acknowledged opportunities to strengthen Councils’ communication and engagement by continuing targeted communication to suit audience needs. This includes digital, print and face-to-face communications, Facebook Q&A sessions and rotating meetings and briefings across the Shire.
Live Streaming of Council Meetings is being considered by Council separately to this review and will go before Council as a separate report in coming months.
Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Pamela Rothfield, was pleased to see Council’s commitment to improve community engagement has had positive results in the community and states it will continue to be a key focus.
“Council has made some significant improvements in how we plan and deliver the organisation’s communications and engagement with our community,” Cr Rothfield said.
“Many of us commenced our roles as Councillors wanting to see improvements in how Council engages with the community. The Council Plan consultation in 2017 was the start of this and we are proud to see it continuing and strengthening.
“We also know that things may not always go to plan, but we are committed to learning from our experiences and listening to our community. Our community gives us a lot of feedback and confidence that we are on the right track.”
The Strategy review highlighted the upskilling of Council’s staff to deliver community engagement, relying less on external consultants. The organisation has increased its focus on ‘closing the loop’ and sharing with the community what they have told us during and after an engagement. This has resulted in improving transparency with the community.
Community Connection Sessions were introduced in 2017 to provide opportunities community groups and individuals to showcase projects and initiatives to Councillors.
The review also proposed some minor changes to the current Strategy mainly to account for Council’s updated role in the social media and online space.
Local Government Bill – Exposure Draft
The Victorian Government is currently in the process of introducing a Local Government Bill – Exposure Draft, which proposes to change the legislative requirements that councils must meet for community engagement. The proposed Bill currently recommends that councils will need to adopt a new Communication and Engagement Policy within six months of the Bill passing as legislation.
The review proposes that Council should develop a new Communication and Engagement Strategy and Community Engagement Policy during 2018/19 to reflect the new legislation requirements.
The report recommended that Council receive the review findings, use the current Strategy with some minor changes, and wait for the Local Government Bill – Exposure Draft 2018 to pass before a new Strategy is developed.
Cr Pamela Rothfield explained that the Bill proposes to change the legislative requirements that all councils must meet for community engagement.
“These changes may have a direct impact on our processes, and Council’s Communication and Engagement Strategy may require further review once passed.”
Cr Rothfield concluded, “It makes sense for us to hold off, and continue to use the existing strategy with some minor changes, until the Bill is passed later this year. Then we can begin a review of the Strategy in light of any legislative changes and consider a new Strategy later this year, or early next year.”