About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Friday, 24 October 2014

'The Public Interest' – Future Campaigns, by Nigel Slack.

This is just a quick post to ask for some feedback. The issue that got me started on this stony path two years or so ago was transparency. I was shocked by the level of money that the Council spent with private companies to deliver public services and disturbed that more information about these contracts was not known. To me it simply would not do that with over £700M (as it was then) being paid to private companies there was next to no information about what they did for that money, whether they were any good at whatever it was they did and most importantly, how much of that huge sum was profit for these companies?

That was the root of the campaigns and issues I now work on. That transparency drive will also remain the main focus of what I do. Don't get me wrong however, Sheffield City Council is considered very good at transparency, compared to other local authorities. They welcome the public, mostly, into decision making meetings, to ask questions or deliver petitions, many councils do not. They publish far more on their website than many others I have seen, possibly why it is so difficult to navigate.

I still maintain they could be better and in one area in particular we are way behind the majority of councils in England. Sheffield City Council do not webcast meetings, either live streaming or as archive material. This, for me, is important for two reasons, (amongst many positive aspects of webcasting) it allows people to see how their councillors contribute to the decision making in the city and enables them to work out whether they are doing a good job, It also vastly increases the amount of information available about the meetings that take place. The formal minutes of a meeting are essentially just a record of decisions made. Democratic Services in Sheffield try their best to add more information, particularly around questions asked and comments made by Councillors. However a large part of the goings on in council meetings is simply lost.

So those are the two main planks of my efforts in Sheffield. I am working with others, mainly Sheffield for Democracy, on other issues such as the council's Community Engagement policy, local devolution and the voting system, TTIP and such. What I'm looking for from my readers, however, is a set of ideas that may form a future agenda. I have ideas of my own and some of those are mentioned on my current 'Campaign and Issues' page. As one man I clearly cannot do everything and I need to be aware that there will be some things that I cannot tackle directly (austerity is an issue for everyone, national policies can only be influenced, until ballot time) but I will always do my best to address peoples concerns, if not by my own actions, at least with advice.

So to summarise;

The Root Issues.
Transparency – of 'Outsourcing Arrangements.'
Webcasting – of Decision Making meetings and Public Engagement events.

So let me know your ideas, on my blog comments, through my 'Public Interest' facebook page or through my 'Twitter' feed using @SheffCityNigel.

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