The Consultation, Engagement and Equalities Manager presented a report, the purpose of which, was to inform Cabinet of the outcome of the ‘Fit for the Future’ 2020 consultation which asked citizens to share their views on how they think the Council should shape its services going forward, as part of its ‘Restart, Recover and Renew’ strategy, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The intention was to understand how the public felt that the Council could look like and how it could deliver sustainable and effective services for the next 5 to 10 years.
She explained that the ‘Fit for the Future’ 2020 consultation sought to obtain views on the future direction of the Council following the Covid-19 pandemic. The allocation of financial resources determined the Authority’s ability to meet its well-being objectives.
Following a number of years of reductions in funding from central government, and continued financial pressures, along with addressing post-Covid-19 recovery, all Councils across the country are continuing to change the way they work and the services they provide, so that organisations can manage with less. Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) has made reductions from its budget of £22 million over the last four years (2017-18 to 2020-21), with an expectation of significant further reductions required over the next four years.
A public consultation exercise had been undertaken over an eight week period from 19 October 2020 to 13 December 2020. Respondents were asked to share their views on a range of areas including:
• Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic;
• Business and the economy;
• Health and wellbeing;
• Customer access to Civic offices;
• Council Tax levels;
• The future.
The Consultation, Engagement and Equalities Manager explained, that in order to gather views of young people, the consultation team attended the Bridgend Youth Council meeting on 24 November 2020. The Youth Council took part in discussions around some of the key questions within the consultation and were encouraged to complete the full consultation online.
The consultation also aimed to reach the following key stakeholders, general public/residents, Citizens’ Panel members, elected members, BCBC employees, Bridgend businesses, town and community councils, school governors, Bridgend Community Cohesion and Equality Forum (BCCEF) members, local interest/community groups, Bridgend Association of Voluntary Organisations (BAVO), Bridgend College, partners, secondary schools (including head teachers) and media outlets.
In addition to general social media content, four polls were created on Twitter which generated 122 votes to key questions within the budget consultation survey, she added.
The Consultation Report was attached at Appendix A to the covering report and set out in detail, the views expressed by those who participated in this.
Overall, the council has received 1,831 interactions from a combination of survey completions, engagement at various meetings, social media engagement and via the authority’s Citizens’ Panel. Due to the impact of Covid-19 this is a decrease of 5,606 (75%) on the 7,437 interactions from last year. A total of 1,421 survey responses were received, which is a decrease of 58% on last year’s survey completions.
The Consultation, Engagement and Equalities Manager then outlined for the benefit of Members, some of the key headline figures and themes that arose from the consultation. These primarily related to:
The Leader thanked the Consultation, Engagement and Equalities Manager for the hard work that she had undertaken in relation to the detail of the report and he was very pleased to hear, that other local authorities had used the BCB ‘Fit For the Future’ Consultation this year as a model of ‘good practice.’
The Deputy Leader echoed his thanks for what he felt had been a very interesting Consultation in terms of some of its outcomes. He had been interested to note, that more constituents than he thought, had not missed the Civic Offices being closed as a result of the pandemic and that 6 out of 10 respondents had confirmed they would be using the Council’s on-line services going forward. He was also encouraged to see the number of subscribers for the ‘Go Delivery’ service also.
The Cabinet Member – Wellbeing and Future Generations though noting that the take-up for the Consultation had been down by 75% compared to last year, in the face of previous increasing engagement year on year in recent years previous to this, she still felt the response had been very good in view of Covid-19, which she considered had exceeded expectations.
The Leader concluded debate on the item, by adding that he felt that it was important to build on face to face consultation in the future also, ie on-line in the current climate, in order to develop further elements of the Consultation process.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet noted the outcome of the consultation with interested parties as detailed in the consultation report attached at Appendix A to the report.