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REACTING TO THE LOUDEST VOICES IN THE COMMUNITY

ISSUE

Councillors who make decisions to keep the most vocal quiet are not necessarily representing the views of everyone in the community.

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SCENARIO

The council plan has identified a small branch library for closure because patronage has been falling significantly in recent years. During the same period, pressure on the main branches has increased. The local Friends of the Library group has been running an active media campaign. There have also been noisy demonstrations at council meetings. In the face of this, council has decided, yet again, to defer a decision.

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WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

Council seems to regularly placate the most active and the noisiest elements of the community when making decisions. Because of this, the interests of every section of the community are not being taken into account.

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HOW TO TACKLE THIS SITUATION

  • councillors should acknowledge that this is happening and consider which feedback from constituents, community groups and the media is relevant
  • councillors need to have another look at the council plan outside of the normal review process
  • the mayor should play a leadership role as the leader of all councillors
  • councillors must pay attention to the consultation processes – everyone affected by important decisions should be listened to, not just those who shout the loudest
  • council should have been aware of stakeholder views before making the decision
  • council should review the decision-making processes for their openness and transparency
  • the administration needs to ensure the advice reflects all the issues, consequences and options
  • councillors need to be reminded that placating the ‘loudest voices’ not only creates precedents which can be difficult to break, but also impacts badly on the public perception of local governments.

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