Puffles hits the front page – councillors respond: Part 2


And not everyone thinks young people should be heard, looking at the newspaper comments

The Cambridge News article is here. Scroll to the end of the article in that link to see the comments. I note some of you have taken on some of the negative comments – thank you.

I want to focus on Cllr Lewis Herbert’s quotations at the end of the news article, which are as follows:

Cllr Lewis Herbert, who represents Coleridge, said the city’s bloggers made a “real contribution” to life in the city but added they were only one element of debates.

He said: “Social media and websites are very valuable tools used by many of our councillors and activists although not everyone will use them to the same extent.

“As residents know from our door-knocking week in and week out to discuss issues on their street, one-to-one personal discussion between our councillors and their residents is still at the heart of what we do.

“This way, we talk to everyone.”

I agree that those of us that tweet and blog about what happens in local government in Cambridge are one element of debates. Not everyone interested in local government has access to the internet or social media, and not everyone who uses social media uses it in a manner to help keep up to date with what is happening in their local council. Regular readers of this blog will know that this is something I want to help change.

I take issue with Cllr Herbert’s comments about ‘many of our councillors’ using social media. Clearly in Cherry Hinton and Coleridge, there are no regular users of social media – a symptom of the lack of diversity when it comes to Labour selecting candidates to stand in what are two of its safest seats in the city. A number of Labour activists and councillors have spoken to me privately acknowledging that this is an issue in these two wards. My challenge to Lewis and colleagues is what is he going to do about it? Is he prepared to keep things as they are, or will Labour select some women to stand in these wards? Will other parties make a change to their traditional tactics and campaign more actively and more visibly in both wards?

Diversity isn’t just a age/gender/orientation/ethnicity/ability etc issue. It also covers skills and life experiences. The lack of social media use by the six city councillors covering the two wards mentioned for me feels like a symptom of the lack of diversity across the wards. Interestingly, Labour Councillor Sue Birtles for Queen Ediths is setting an example to her male colleagues by showing both an interest and a desire to learn about how to use social media for social action, having set up a local Twitter account and having booked a session with me and Puffles to see how to improve Labour’s presence on this side of town, where Cllr Amanda Taylor sets a splendid example for councillors south of Mill Road to follow.

Door-to-door knocking – hit and miss

It takes a hell of a lot of courage to go door-to-door campaigning – especially in this environment. It takes a hell of a lot of courage to go up to strangers and ask them anything. Not surprisingly, hardly anyone does it these days (unless they are paid for it).

Much of the time, many people are out. When is the ideal time to go door-to-door canvassing? Safe wards have a habit of being missed out in this part of the world. We have to chase after the politicians rather than the other way around. There’s also still a mindset in some parts of ‘why doesn’t somebody else do something about this stuff we don’t like?’ that persists. Have a look at the comments complaining about the Cambridge Cycling Campaign in this article. Some motorists have taken issue at the achievements of the campaign. Only they’d rather someone else stood up to them!

Group conversations – face-to-face and online

I’ve been to some of the former before (see here) – and have found them to be really useful events. Not only do you get to meet other people you might not have met in your local community, you are also brought together to share your ideas & solve problems that impact everyone who lives in that community. It’s a very different atmosphere to the area committee meetings where we turn up, we moan, listen to problems that get talked about but seldom feel resolved, before the planning applications. Personally I think we can be a lot more imaginative about how we use the area committee processes.

Ditto with things online – are there some things that can be explored online, with key points from those conversations brought into the face-to-face conversations? That way things are not restricted only to those that can get to meetings. Not all meetings are held in places where they are accessible to public transport. The committee that covers issues in the ward I live in has meetings in places that are far harder for me to get to than the one that covers the school I am a governor for.

What are councillors going to do for young people?

Well…Puffles is front page news now so awareness of the issues of using social media and engaging with young people are now slightly higher up the agenda. It also means that anyone else wanting to run with the issue now has a newspaper article to refer to, as well as things like council minutes. At this stage, few people will be using them. But as we start training more people on how to use them – for example through the free Net-Squared workshops, that number will hopefully rise.

Finally, there’s the issue of councillors doing things that are new, innovative and inspiring to get more people involved in local democracy. This is an issue that I intend to come back to again and again at local meetings. I’m going to be asking councillors to update local meetings on what actions and activities they have undertaken since their previous meeting to engage not just with young people but with new audiences, online & offline.

And they can’t say they were not warned.




27 thoughts on “Puffles hits the front page – councillors respond: Part 2

  1. We in Cambridge Labour go door-to-door almost every weekend in almost every ward in the city, including Coleridge and Queen Edith’s. It doesn’t take any particular courage; it is part of what we do as councillors to stay in touch with the people who elected us. The idea that ‘hardly anyone does it’ is simply untrue. Yes, people are sometimes out – but we always post through our contact details, which includes our email addresses. Yes, it takes time to call on everyone – there are roughly 7,000 voters in each ward, and there is high turnover in some wards like Romsey – but if they’re not in, they get a card saying how to contact us. Short of stalking the voters, it is hard to see how local Labour councillors could do more to actively contact voters, and I know that the Liberal Democrats are very active in this manner as well.

    Social media, by contrast – and I say this as a keen user of it – relies on active engagement from voters – effectively asking voters to make the running (by following us, or liking a Facebook page) – exactly what you’re complaining about when you say “we have to chase after the politicians”.

    I’ve chatted to you about many of these issues before, and I’ll reiterate: active use of social media does not denote a good councillor. One of our best local councillors, Mike Todd Jones, can barely use a mobile phone. The Cherry Hinton councillors are so locally well-known that Rob Dryden won last time with nearly three quarters of the vote. If I were to list the attributes I’d want in a councillor, active use of social media might be in the top ten, but not in a million years would it be a ‘must have’, as this misses out all the serious casework-related activity that the best councillors spend most of their time doing. As members of other parties have pointed out (ironically on Twitter), social media gives very little in terms of casework or contact with voters who live locally, in the wards we represent, compared to the investment of time it requires.

    For these reasons, there is no way on earth that we – or indeed any party – are likely to be deselecting councillors for not using social media.

    As you are also aware, unlike any other party Labour has a policy of All-Women Shortlists. This is aimed at bringing the proportion of women across the city up to at least 50%. To achieve this, AWS are often run in the most winnable wards – but we do not deselect councillors for having the misfortune to be male, as this would be grossly unfair, and I’m sure you wouldn’t suggest that this should be our policy.

    You also know that I think that social media is a very useful tool, and I think that we, and all parties could do it better. But, again, this will require a significant investment of time. We are a district council and are all part-time councillors, often working full time with our council duties on top of that – meetings, committees, briefings, Group meetings, knocking on doors, dealing with casework and producing literature. To stop doing any of the above in order to spend more time on social media will not make us better councillors. Social media is an add-on, an extra tool; it is not and cannot be the core of what we do, not least as the people who need our help most quite often don’t even have access to the internet.

    So while I appreciate your passion and enthusiasm, and agree with many of your points – especially about the Area Committee process – I can state categorically that we won’t be deselecting anyone soon because they’re not on Twitter or Facebook and don’t have a blog. I would be very happy to talk to you, and anyone else, about how the Labour Group as a whole can use social media better in the ways that you describe; but I will not castigate any individual councillors for feeling that their time can be better spent on the doorstep.

    All the best – and great pictures in the CEN today,
    Cllr Carina O’Reilly

  2. I would like to offer another perspective, and correct the idea that social media in of it self necessarily gives little in terms of case work. As a campaigner in Manchester I have been contacted via social media about heritage campaigns, noisy venues, the environment, cycle paths, safety around canals, fly tipping. Pretty much the meat and drink of local politics. I’ve shown the pictures of abandoned syringes – and kept people informed about what I am doing about it.

    To be concrete, residents contacted me about private car parking firms swooping in, setting up dangerous and ugly facilities in the city centre, driving a coach and horses (or perhaps rather lots of cars) through environmental and transport goals for the city. This kicked off on Reddit (which I am sure many in Cambridge do know about too) and then Twitter. Our “zombie carpark” campaign gathered much attention, finally crossing over in to the mainstream local media. It has resulted just this month in a change of heart at the planning committee. Real grassroots action, which also got people involved who would never normally be interested in local politics.

    In many ways Manchester is the canary in the mine for local democracy with atrociously low turnout. One of the reasons for this is that traditional campaigning is all but impossible as there are so many flats and a high turnover of voters. It is just a tentative start, and not the answer to everything of course. But it has its place, and an important one as that.

    I think mainstream politicians should be more honest about what traditional doorknocking is for. It is about gathering data for winning elections and keeping the support. I know this as, well after all, the very first doorknocking I did was for the Labour party in Cambridge. That is some time ago now and I am much changed, but the methods of the main parties are not. But something does need to fundamentally change or our democracy will continue to erode.

  3. You clearly have a different experience, Loz – and perhaps the differing demographics have something to do with it. I’d agree that some of our door knocking is for the reasons you cite; we don’t get to stay as councillors unless we win elections. However, the vast majority of what we do these days is a deliberate process of initiating conversations and finding out problems and issues. Might well have been different when you were first door knocking; I know Voter ID used to be the prime driver a decade or so ago, but it’s certainly not in Cambridge these days.

  4. I don’t believe the suggestion was that someone gets deselected purely for being male; the suggestion was that they should be deselected because they don’t do a good job of representing their ward.

    I was Mike Todd Jones’ constituent for a while. He was a good councillor (and, I presume, still is). That is not to say, that a ward should be represented by 3 identikit councillors; as a team, they should complement each other somewhat, or at least, have part of the mechanisms done by non-councillors.

    Focussing purely on the doorstep is an approach you can choose to take. However, not everyone answers their door, or would know what to raise, or be willing/able to in front of their family. Going to people’s houses is one approach; this piece was about also engaging where constituents are. Especially the people you can’t hear from in other ways.

    No councillor has to do anything they don’t wish to do.

    That’s why there are elections.

  5. “Interestingly, Labour Councillor Sue Birtles for Queen Ediths is setting an example to her male colleagues by showing both an interest and a desire to learn about how to use social media for social action, having set up a local Twitter account and having booked a session with me and Puffles to see how to improve Labour’s presence on this side of town”

    This sounds like you’re running a kind of protection racket Antony (albeit one with no money involved). If councillors don’t sign up for a session with you then they are labelled as unengaged Luddites languishing in their safe seats, cackling away without a care in the world.

    1. Harsh. Puffles and BB just happens to be available to offer such advice and is willing to share.

      But on one level it is odd that a city like Cambridge, known to some as Silicon Fen, doesn’t have a strong social media presence when it comes to local politics. That’s not to say that all councillors _must_ use it but that we can’t know how useful it would be because not that many are. (And of course it would in addition to door-knocking not instead of.)

  6. I think there is a genuine problem with selection of high quality candidates. Being a Cllr is not the most glamorous of activities. The difficult casework, the getting doors slammed on you in canvassing sessions on cold November nights. The infighting and general lack of power especially if you are in opposition. Well it doesn’t enthuse me….

    In my experience parties do not want the kind of “innovative” individuals with new ideas that you describe. They want someone who can toe a party line. The culture of the CLP I used to belong to was very top down and risk adverse so individuals would struggle to bring in new ideas against an attitude that “we have always done things this way”.

    That said I’m not sure social media is this great panacea. Where I live social media is used for petty points scoring between Cllrs which actually turns me off the democratic process. If Cllrs are merely retweeting the party line how does that engage anyone?

  7. I wonder how many canvassers, when met by a teenager opening the door to them kick off with “is your mum or dad in?”. It happened to a friend of mine, who was a rather youthful-looking 30 year old at the time. As the homeowner he wasn’t impressed. Had he been an actual teenager I doubt he’d have been left with the message “we’re interested in what people your age think”.

  8. Personally this the social media (as the technology currently stands) is completely overblown. Currently politicians often use social media to tweet the party line (as mentioned above) and it really only serves to remind cynics such as myself about the silly partisan nature of much of what passes for politics.

    Equally trying to engage voters all to often means listening to trolls. This was perfectly demonstrated by the comment on Cambridge Evening News below your article (specifically the comment “I have news for Mr Carpen: Grown-Ups Don’t Tweet.”) If you make the barrier to entry low (which effectively social media and electronic communication does) then you enable idiots to make silly comments. The idea that politics should be dominated by hard left and reactionary right keyboard warriors is frankly rather scary.

    That said the technology does have potential it however needs to be used in a much cleverer way than twitter, facebook and comment sections of newspapers currently enable. Political parties and local government for example could look to invest in document management systems and similar tools. This would enable casework to be done online and discussions to be opened up to interested parties. [There is already of the shelf technology for doing this (including open source tools such as Alfresco).]

    This approach of sharing and collaborating is much more powerful. People interested in contributing could comments and feedback (in a similar way to wikipedia) and other interested parties could review the information. Meanwhile trolls would quickly and easily get excluded when they demonstrate they have nothing to contribute. Google, twitter and facebook potentially do have a minor role. Using technologies such as OAuth it is possible to link contributions to people’s ID (meaning people would need to think carefully about using their online identities for trolling).

    Technology has huge potential to shape politics, however, if it is to shape it in a positive way (and not hand influence to populist reactionaries whether they by Nigel Farage, Owen Jones or Daniel Hannan) then it need to be done in a much smarter way than politicians jumping on twitter.

  9. I have to say that I haven’t been following all of this stuff very closely – I’ve just heard about it from some colleagues. I thought I’d just offer some thoughts.

    Firstly, I used to be on Twitter. The reason I left was partly because I was tired of being inundated with comments by – and wasting time in protracted arguments with – a tiny, unrepresentative minority of people, most of whom – Richard Taylor for example – were not my constituents, though they thought their views were the most important in the world. Such voices drown out the majority who really need to be engaged, who are not middle-class, articulate Twitter users. The number of people on Twitter who were my constituents was infinitesimal – if I remember, about 2 or 3. Those who are on Twitter tend not to be very representative of most constituents anyway. Everyone on the electoral register has a front door, hardly anyone has a Twitter account. So we knock on people’s doors. I have personally knocked on your door in the last 3 elections Anthony, and on one occasion dealt with a piece of casework I picked up from your mum. Would I have engaged with your mother on Twitter? Does she have a Twitter account? I very much doubt it.

    The reality is that Twitter is a very minor tool for political engagement that is exclusive, populated largely by self-appointed experts and political hacks, and unconducive to in-depth engagement with issues. It’s just an echo chamber that has little relation to the real world. Those in poorer areas are even less likely to be on Twitter – they’re too busy struggling to make a living to be tweeting everything – and they are the people whom Labour sees as the priority.

    I do not need ‘social media’ training – I know perfectly well how to use it, I just choose not to because I think it’s largely a waste of time.

    More to the point, if you have an issue with me, why not say so? I have physically been in the same room as you at least twice in recent weeks and you’ve not said a word. You’ve not phoned me either. You actually came to the last East Area Committee and then didn’t ask me a question or talk to me. It’s likely that in the coming months either I or one of your other councillors will knock on your door. If you have an issue, it’s not as if there aren’t ample opportunities to contact me or another ward councillors.

    In terms of ‘engaging youth’ and visiting schools, I would point out that a) I was the youngest councillor ever elected to Cambridge City Council (21 when elected) and b) schools and young people are a County not a City issue. It’s not a blurred line, it’s the most unblurred demarcation in our two-tier local government system. Why not contact county councillors about these issues?

    Also, you don’t seem to have any idea of how busy councillors are. Most have full-time jobs, a family and are councillors. I am trying to finish my PhD, do various other academic projects, be the Labour spokes for Finance (which is taking up hours of my time at the moment as I am leading on Labour’s budget amendment) and be a ward councillor (and occasionally see my girlfriend and other friends). I don’t have infinite time to visit schools and do everything you want me to. I don’t understand how you have the time to post thousands of twitter comments and go to social media events, etc, every day. Not everyone has the time to do all this on top of their other political, personal and work commitments. Bear in mind also that Cambridge City Councillors get the tenth lowest allowances in the country, out of 435 councils. I don’t mind this – I am against paying councillors as if it’s a job – but you can’t pay councillors under £3k basic allowance and expect them to do a full-time job.

    Also, you don’t appear to 100% understand how political parties and representative democracy works. If you want to influence a local manifesto of a political party, it helps to be a member or a councillor. That’s how it works. We are in the game to win elections and implement our policies and principles. If you like our agenda, vote for us. If you don’t, don’t. If you want extensive influence on the policies of a political party, join a political party. We are quite happy to consider submissions and ideas from outside individuals and groups if people offer them. Indeed, I will be co-ordinating Labour’s next city council manifesto, so by all means email me any ideas. But don’t expect to be able to attend our CLP and Labour Group meetings when we decide our manifesto, because you are not a Labour Party member.

    More pertinently, I feel that your tone is very unconducive to getting what you want. You appear to think that councillors are uniquely accountable to you, your views and your agenda. I am as accountable to you as I am to the other 6000 of my constituents. I am not obliged to be on social media, or do precisely what you want on every issue – and you’re not obliged to take up 90% of the time of the councillors who are on Twitter.

  10. I don’t agree George. In my ward, many people are commuters who resent having their door knocked on when they get home in the evening. But they enjoy a twitter chat when they are commuting to work. Between 8 and 9 am seems to be when many of our residents want to discuss council topics.

    1. Well a) your ward is obviously very different from mine and b) simple answer – do what we do and knock at the weekend.

      1. Why on earth do you think people find you knocking on their door helpful, weekend or not? Who else does this? Who else breeches your privacy and asks for instantaneous comment on an issue? Not to mention why do you think people want to do the door knocking? Do you understand the psychology of volunteerism?

      2. I really give up. Most people complain and say that they only see their councillors at election time (which isn’t true), but then occasionally you get someone who doesn’t want you to do it at all. Knocking on doors is the only genuinely democratic way to engage with people and gather their views in a representative democracy, build up a picture of people’s issues and voting intentions, and pick up casework. It allows you to keep in touch with what the people you represent want and think, and is the bed-rock of local politics. How else would councillors gather the views and engage with the 95% of their constituents who aren’t on Twitter? And it’s not exactly breaching privacy, since anyone can (and a very few do) just say no thanks and shut the door. We have become such a bunch of atomised, disconnected, technology obsessed people that any attempt to ask people what they think about the performance of their local council and engage them with the democratic process is seen as wrong. I don’t want to sound rude but I think your view is ridiculous.

        And as a volunteer who has spent hundreds of hours with many other like-minded volunteers door-knocking for the Labour Party, I’d say I undersand the psychology of ‘volunteerism’ better than you do.

  11. I think there are two issues that are worth considering:

    The first is how to use social media in a manner that complements your work offline. Think for example how you could share published documents with local residents on specific issues – a planning application or a consultation such as on Coleridge Rec – where someone’s expertise or detailed scrutiny could save you some extra work. (Esp if you can get to trust the judgement of that resident).

    The second is what to do about a growing ‘digital divide’ between those who for whatever reason are unable to access the internet, and those that have continual access to it.

  12. I honestly am stunned that a rant given with a tone of such hostility and contempt could end with a snipe at the tone used by others. Surely if somebody feels incapable of engaging with a voter in a respectful manner then it is better to refrain from engagement on any level. While Cllr Owers may feel that there is no need for social media training, I would say that perhaps public relations training is an option that should be given a good deal of consideration.

  13. I’m going to try and reply mostly to the original post, but will also briefly mention Cllr O’Reilly and Cllr Owers responses.

    I agree that you won’t win an election at the moment with social media, it’s debateable whether that will ever be the case. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing.

    However, I’d rank it up there with holding public meetings as a tool to help engage in general, but to get that level out of it you need to do more than twitter or facebook (or reddit etc etc).
    It is certainly better than email in many cases. I’ll give a few examples:

    The new school

    There was a new primary school in my division which opened this year. Under the Gove regime, all new schools are presumed to be an academy or free school, and at the County, there is a competitive tender process for potential sponsors to come forward result in an eventual meeting where a pabel of 4 councillors (including me) interview and select the County’s recommended sponsor.

    The County process was to hold one public meeting a few days before the aforementioned selection meeting, but I felt this wasn’t enough.
    I publicised the process via my ward newsletter and held a public meeting, helped by parents who’d set up a facebook group.
    I also set up a forum site and approached each sponsor with a logon for it, asking them to answer a list of questions that I’d collated from emails/the public meeting/phone calls/door to door conversations with parents and residents. Parents also got logons and could ask questions to the sponsors which they would have to answer in public.

    This all resulted in more transparency than would have been the case from the formal process, and I should also add I was ably supported by the County’s solicitors through it, but that’s not the point.

    In this case social media allowed for something not possible via normal door to door/email/phoning, and through a public meeting. that said, the social media here wouldn’t have worked if it wasn’t for the traditional leafleting, door knocking, emailing etc

    VIE Estate parking restrictions

    As many reading this will know, bringing in (or not) parking restrictions is one of the most contentious things a Cllr can get involved in. You quickly get into vested interests, and balancing out the requirements of one group against another, and both of those against the best for all (which may not be the best for individual groups).

    using my residents’ association, which has a forum I set up, I’ve over the course of the year consulted on a configuration for parking restrictions across the estate. This has all been backed up with public meeting, and leaflet drops highlighting the discussion.

    The biggest thing this did was allow for a transparent answer to the individual resident who said “Why are you not doing exactly what I think you should be doing”, as rather than say “Well, other people have different opinions” the fact that others did was apparent from the forum.

    I’m not claiming the final design is one everyone thinks is brilliant – but it is one which represents a broad compromise for everyone.

    This simply wouldn’t be possible with traditional methods, and even the bits that would be possible (iteration over several designs) would have taken an inordinate amount of effort.


    The examples above are designed to suggest that, as you’ve said, social media can enhance the democratic process. It won’t win an election, true, but it will help you to engage, and that in itself can *help* to win an election.

    I should point out that the setups I created require a high level of technical knowledge and time than many Cllrs (of any party) possess.

    One area where I don’t agree with Carina (although I think the majority of her comments are well reasoned and accurate) is the suggestion that it doesn’t require courage to go out on the doorstep & that social media can’t give a way around this for some people. Whilst the anonymous nature of the internet can be bad in many ways, it does provide a shield for those who are shy or under confident.

    That said, I do wonder if there is more we can do with area committees: I’ve actively looked into chairing north area (allowed under the constitution although the City bigwigs weren’t too happy with this) and would make a lot of changes if I ever did. the biggest thing would be the way the meeting is publicised – at the moment it is far to dry, and needs to be more ‘flashy’ to get people’s interest.

    However, I question whether a shy and/or under confident person should be going into politics.

    I agree with the majority of what Carina’s said in reply – but I think the tone should be more towards “How can we use this” rather than “Why we aren’t” – but I think that partly comes from the way in which you write your post, it naturally makes one defensive in one’s answer.

    I find George’s comments very odd – especially the one about the City Council not providing services for young people. Is he even aware of Brownsfield’s Youth centre for example?

  14. In George’s defence, he was echoing what Cllr Sarah Brown and I were both trying to say – perhaps not with sufficient clarity – that this is an area that is almost entirely under the County’s remit (as I’m sure you know, Ian, the City’s limited children’s provision is entirely discretionary and aimed at 8-13 year olds) – and that it isn’t really done for city councillors of either party to barge in on our County Groups’ responsibilities. And as you’ve ably outlined, Ian, County Councillors do generally have more time for some of this stuff – many County Councillors have much more time to invest in their roles because (a) their meetings are in the daytime, so many don’t have full time jobs and (b) their basic allowances are, I believe, more than three times that of City Councillors, so that they can afford not to have full time jobs.

    As I’ve tried to get across, it’s not that I believe that we shouldn’t have a greater online presence – I would love to have the time to do some of the things you’ve been able to do. But I don’t. I don’t have the time as an individual; working with schools is technically not within my remit (and they don’t always particularly welcome the inescapable fact that councillors are political); and both our Groups – and indeed all Groups on the County – are dealing with enormous cuts and trying to protect key services, so we’re not about to try to redirect officer time.

    Anthony, you have invested a large amount of time into ‘challenging and confronting’ and attempting to engage with us on this. You know that, largely, we’re not hostile to most of your ideas, but over and over again the city councillors are telling you that we are already massively over-worked. Might I suggest that you take these ideas and move forward with them yourself? We’d be happy to support and help, but none of us have the individual or group time to take on another unpaid responsibility for acting as a convener for the forums that you want to see. Why don’t you do it? You’ll get broad support from both major parties on the city council but we cannot lead on this – we have limited time, money, and some very pressing other priorities. If you start talking to the key people about whether they’d be interested, and set up some meetings about how it might work, you could then bring a proposal or a request for specific support to any of us on the City or County and we’d see if we could help.

    In the meantime, I need to get off social media and go and do some work to pay the rent!

    All the best, as ever,

    1. I’m puzzled by Cllr Owers comments about young people too. In the ward I’m in (not his) for example, some developer contributions will be focussed on providing something for teenagers. I would very much hope that the views of teenagers will be sought before anything gets installed so that what they get is as close as it can be to what they want/need. On that basis it’d be great to see some of them at an area committee participating.

      And it’s not just about services is it? The 16 yr old of today will be a voter soon so doesn’t it make sense to get them more involved, to know their views are listened to so that when they do, hopefully, cast their vote they have a better idea of what’s what?

      I am sympathetic to Carina’s /cllrs struggles with time/workload though, but believe what we need is a mind set regarding young people.

  15. I am a young person engaged in a political party and I agree that all parties need to engage with young people more. One of the easiest ways to do this is through social media. Councillors like George may choose not to use it and that is up to him but gone are the days of blind party loyalty, and gone are the days of door knocking having a big positive effect. Politics is moving to be much more issues based and the best way of finding out the issues is through social media.

  16. Sorry, when I said time – I meant that because I have a generally higher level of technical knowledge (I work in IT in my day job) setting up a custom forum doesn’t take me *that* long. I certainly don’t think it is true that County Councillors have more free time than city (or vice versa). That said you are correct that as a prortion when I last checked, less County Cllrs have full time jobs – this may not be true since the recent election of course.

  17. I’m a bit bemused by comments like “The number of people on Twitter who were my constituents was infinitesimal – if I remember, about 2 or 3. … Everyone on the electoral register has a front door, hardly anyone has a Twitter account. So we knock on people’s doors.” because some issues in an area can effect anyone travelling through an area where ever they live in the city or outside. Although knocking on doors works for those in the ward does it engage with those living outside?

    I’d be interested to know how many of the cases that councillors currently deal with are raised by young people. I wonder if the current door knocking and email approach is engaging with young people, which I think was Puffles’ point. There’s a view/theory that teenagers don’t much like using Facebook (not fashionable) or email (too slow) and prefer instant messaging (SMS, WhatsApp and Snapchat). The question is, are councillors using the right communication channels to reach these people?

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