Community engagement is the focus behind three Latrobe City documents and a toolkit council has adopted as it tries to improve its communication strategies.
Increasing followers on social media, developing an SMS database to update residents and producing a video series about community input are among council’s key actions.
They will be part of the 2015-2019 Community Engagement Strategy and Action Plan, each endorsed by councillors at the last ordinary meeting in accordance with a new engagement policy.
Latrobe City deputy mayor Peter Gibbons said due to the rise of modern technology, it was time council updated its communication methods.
“Council is not just rates, roads and rubbish,” Cr Gibbons said.
“We have to have a comprehensive policy so ratepayers in this city are able to contact council about their views on all things occurring in this place.”
The policy outlines a set of principles and standards.
The strategy outlines five key stages and the action plan outlines five objectives detailing how council officers and the community can interact with one another.
Cr Gibbons said although the public would not see major changes in the short term, it was about providing an accessible platform for community members.
He said once the plan was implemented and the toolkit developed – expected next year – community engagement would be an automatic process.
“(It would) become part of the culture of council and how we deal with the community in general,” he said.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
“This is the same with all our residents – we have to provide them with the mechanism and the apparatus so they can come to us with their views, but we can’t force them to do that.”
It took a year-long period of in-house consultation and public feedback sessions until councillors endorsed the policy and documents, which Cr Gibbons described as comprehensive.
“When you’re talking about policy you have to dig down into how the previous policy works and what the community expects of you – that’s the timing issue,” Cr Gibbons said.
“We were quite clear about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s so when it did go out it was very plain and very clear about what we wanted.”
An e-newsletter rounding up council meeting minutes is set to be developed by the end of the year, while an online visual tool tracking progress on council projects could be available by June 2017.
The strategy and action plan is available to view at www.latrobe.vic.gov.au/haveasay. The policy will soon be available for viewing.