Dear Editor, Last week’s Post made wry reference to the absence of tweeter and bloggers from the Birmingham City Council’s chamber; I think you might also have highlighted the absence of other press, radio and TV reporters from this and most full council meetings, historically.
The status quo is that a couple of press reporters from the Mail and Post will attend the chamber for a couple of hours, and then leave. The local BBC and ITV reporters for Midlands Today and Central news are usually if not always conspicuous by their absence.
It would be a big mistake to surmise that all tweeters are political novices who have never stepped inside the council chamber, and are therefore prone to be overwhelmed by the pomp and glory of the chamber’s proceedings; there were few surprises within the budget, which had of course been leaked and debated in the preceding weeks.
However, this was still a historic and very newsworthy event that was worthy of attention and I would like to publically thank Birmingham City Council for facilitating my presence at the meeting.
I was there to report the cuts online via twitter @politicsinbrum.
The traditional modus operandi, whereby the press office simply liaises with local reporters is being challenged, by ever-evolving technologies which are opening up the democratic process; citizen journalists, bloggers, tweeters will continue to scrutinise, question and challenge, decisions that impact the lives of the citizens of this city. This is the way forward and progress like the railways in Victorian times, cannot be stopped.
These are exciting times and the opportunity to use IT to engage with constituents should now be comprehensively embraced by the city’s councillors, to enhance communication and to create a sea change in Birmingham.
All city councillors should I believe, have an independent web presence, detailing their diary, their advice surgeries, their pledges during elections, their campaigns, and community petitions and concerns, plus any office they hold within specific committees. It should be possible to align this information with the statutory register of interests for each councillor too.
Yes, I know that all councillor’s details are listed on www.birmingham.gov.uk. But we are talking here about a radical shift, a move towards real transparency, engagement and accountability.
Councillors should individually be actively pointing their constituents towards the information they deserve and demand access to – such as all council expenditure over £500.
Our politicians are significant – they control money, information and power and therefore are entirely accountable for all their views, comments and actions.
Plus they do receive public funds for the execution of their duties.