The Mayor will be in attendance to update the Board on his aims and aspirations, progress made to date and to highlight any emerging issues relating to his portfolio.
The Mayor, Andy Preston, was in attendance at the meeting to update the Board on his aims and aspirations, progress made to date and to highlight any emerging issues relating to his portfolio.
As part of his update to the Board, the Mayor focused upon the Marketing and Communications aspect of his portfolio; the following points were made:
· Marketing and Communications had progressed significantly well over the last twelve months, with reference being made to the work undertaken in respect of COVID-19; the work of the staff and team involved in this activity was highly commended. The role of the marketing department would shift in light of the changes that COVID-19 had introduced, and the associated messages that needed to be conveyed.
· The challenge that all Council teams had faced revolved around cultural change. In terms of Marketing and Communications, changes within local media readership and the increased use of social media over the last number of years required cultural change. It was felt that improvement within Local Government nationally was needed in order to maintain pace, however, the Council had made significant progress with this over the last twelve months. Through social media, the Council had had the opportunity to engage with a wider audience, to share goals and obtain feedback, which was taken on board.
· Through the introduction of remote meeting meetings in response to the pandemic, Council meetings were broadcast on YouTube and Facebook Live, which was felt aided transparency and encouraged participation from the public.
Following the update, Members were afforded the opportunity to ask questions.
A Member praised the work of the staff, and sought clarification regarding the points raised around jobs. In response, the Mayor clarified that he was referring to the use of social media to broadcast life-changing opportunities in respect of careers, new jobs and training. It was indicated that many businesses within the town had raised issues around skills shortages and filling vacancies, which was felt to be a large problem for the town. The Mayor wanted to see increased promotion of businesses and opportunities. Reference was made to impending job opportunities to be created in the Grangetown area, which was excellent. It was highlighted, however, that whilst there was positivity, challenge also needed to be borne in mind; the Council’s role in this would be to provide links between opportunities and potential employees.
In response to a query regarding 12-week wait times for the free collection of bulky waste, the Mayor advised that a 12-week wait was not the case. It was explained that, like other Councils, if residents had a bulky item to be collected quickly, this would be undertaken for payment. However, if payment could not be made, it would be collected free of charge, but there would be a longer wait time.
A member referred to the Marketing and Communications team and reiterated the praise given to the staff. It was commented that Councillors should advise the team of any news stories to enable them to be shared; the Mayor reiterated this view and urged all councillors that, where they had good news stories or something important to share, to contact the team. The Member requested that, should any other facilities be introduced to support Councillors in sharing information/news stories with residents, to please advise of these.
A Member made reference to fly tipping hotspots and the impact that any reduction in Street Wardens would have on the support provided to local residents. The Mayor indicated that he would be happy to speak to political groups and/or the public on the topic of fly tipping/environmental issues outside of this meeting.
A Member commented that communication with residents on a Ward or area-specific basis could be achieved via the Love Middlesbrough magazine; this view was supported by the Mayor.
In response to a comment regarding the correction of inaccurate news stories, the Mayor indicated that more positive stories needed to be shared, and inaccurate information challenged. However, the challenge in terms of the latter was identifying the appropriateness of this, which was context dependent. The Head of Marketing and Communications explained that action should be taken to correct matters when untrue, but there were different levels of stories.
A Member referred to Love Middlesbrough magazine and commented that, since its introduction, it had been really positive. It was felt that it would be beneficial to utilise the publication to promote the work that the Council does undertake, in order to demonstrate to residents what services their Council Tax payments provide. In response, the Mayor agreed with this, commenting that the Council did need to highlight the positive work carried out.
A Member referred to large, localised projects and queried whether these would be publicised to residents in appropriate ways – the example of a leaflet drop in a Ward where this was felt more effective than social media communication was provided. In response, the Mayor felt that the Council did do this already, but acknowledged there was room for improvement. Reference was made to COVID-19 and the use of leaflet drops during this time; consideration was given to the costs versus the benefits to this approach. The Mayor advised that Councillors contact the Marketing and Communications team for further advice in respect of leaflet-based marketing strategy.
In response to a query regarding the promotion of the Council’s plans for the future of the town, and provision of details regarding planned development/regeneration work, the Mayor indicated that this was undertaken; it was about achieving a balancing between too much and not enough. However, due to the issue being raised, it was possible that further promotional activity was needed.
A Member referred to Centre Square, commenting on its size yet limited use. Reference was made to previous events, such as ‘Last Night in the Proms’, which was great success. It was felt that the space could be utilised for multi-cultural events to bring the town together. In response, the Mayor agreed that it was a large open space that was central. However, it was cut-off from retail and the west side of the town, and there was a lack of natural footfall. Reference was made to previous use of the space for Christmas events, however, attendance had been low due to its locality. Events had been planned for 2020, though due to the pandemic could not be held. It was acknowledged that more could be done to utilise the space, but until retail and residential development happened around it, this would be difficult. A Member made reference to previous use of Centre Square for the Mela event, however, following a survey, this was transferred to Albert Park, which was preferred by attendees for the availability of parking, etc. The Mayor felt that Centre Square was an asset to the town, but there were some flaws with it that could potentially be remedied in the coming years, such as further access from the Cleveland Centre, together with retail and residential development, which would create a natural footfall.
In response to a query regarding prioritisation of the COVID-19 vaccination for teachers and teaching assistants, the Mayor commented that teaching staff should be prioritised, but the challenge that needed to be considered was around the vaccination of younger, healthy individuals when others under the age of 50 with health conditions were not receiving vaccinations. However, it was felt that, on balance, some occupations should be prioritised, which included teachers and school staff.
The Mayor advised Members that he would be happy to meet with groups to discuss issues, but felt it prudent for initial contact to be made to determine whether officers focusing on specific areas, such as refuse collection or Adult Services, would be better placed to assist in the first instance with detailed questions.
The Chair thanked the Mayor for his attendance and contribution to the meeting.