Council scales back face-to-face surgeries due to lack of engagement

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Town councillor ‘face to face’ surgery in the foyer of the Willow Brook shopping centre on Saturday 31st July 2021 L-r: Cllr John Ashe and Cllr Tom Aditya.

Bradley Stoke Town Council has quietly scaled back its programme of regular ‘meet your councillor‘ events after an initiative to host additional sessions at a range of new locations across the town failed to stimulate increased engagement from residents.

The purpose of the face-to-face advice surgeries is to give members of the public an additional opportunity to discuss local issues with their elected representatives. Councillors feedback information to the town council office, which then takes the appropriate steps to resolve each issue or forwards it to the appropriate organisation, such as South Gloucestershire Council or Avon and Somerset Police.

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Kitchen & Laundry Appliance Care, Bradley Stoke, Bristol.

Prior to the May 2023 local elections, the then-ruling Conservative administration sparked anger by decreeing that ‘opposition’ councillors be restricted to attending just one in three of the monthly councillor surgery sessions held on Saturday mornings at the Willow Brook Centre. At the time, then-councillor Angela Morey (Labour) described the restriction as a “thinly veiled attempt to stop me being able to speak to people on behalf of the council.”

Following the ousting of the Conservatives in last year’s local elections, the new ruling coalition formed of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green councillors scrapped the ‘political’ restriction on who is allowed to staff the surgeries. They also agreed to double the frequency of the sessions by additionally holding them at the council’s three activity centres on a rotating basis, thereby “reaching out to residents in different parts of the town”.

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However, when councillors were asked to review the success of the new twice-monthly surgeries at last November’s Full Council meeting, they were told that only eight enquiries had been received from members of the public across five sessions held at the activity centres between July and November 2023. One surgery, held at the Jubilee Centre in October, failed to attract a single resident over the two-hour duration of the event.

The meeting minutes record:

“Generally, numbers visiting the surgeries remain low, with attendance at Willow Brook Centre slightly better than our three activity centres (probably due to the locations). Councillors will need to decide whether to continue the surgeries in 2024 and, if so, frequency and locations need to be agreed.”

Following discussion, it was agreed that the surgeries will continue on the last Saturday [of] every month at the Willow Brook Centre “as this is the area which has the highest footfall and interaction with the local community”.

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Schedule of town councillor surgeries for the period January to March 2024.

The schedule of councillor surgeries for the next three months has been agreed as:

  • Saturday 27th January 2024, 10am-12noon
  • Saturday 24th February 2024, 10am-12noon
  • Saturday 23rd March 2024, 10am-12noon

Surgeries will take place from 10am to 12noon in the town square entrance foyer to the Willow Brook Centre shopping mall.

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Other ways of raising issues

For reference, the main responsibilities of the town council are the maintenance of the its three activity centres (Baileys Court, Brook Way and The Jubilee), the skate park, Jubilee Green, the Beacon Playscheme and other play areas. It also maintains highway verges on behalf of South Gloucestershire Council (SGC).

There is no need for most residents to attend one of the face-to-face town council surgeries in order to raise a local issue. In many cases it may be best to contact your SGC ward councillor in the first instance. An easy way to do this is via writetothem.com (just enter your postcode). Should the issue turn out to be within the remit of the town council, the SGC ward councillor should be able to forward your enquiry (or you can use the Contact page on the Bradley Stoke Town Council website).

For non-emergency policing issues, the Bradley Stoke police beat team may be contacted via an online form at the bottom of their dedicated webpage. N.B. Do not use this contact form to report a crime. You can report a crime online or call 101 (for non-emergencies) or 999 (for emergencies).

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