David Harrington, cabinet member for corporate management and finance at Stockton Council, has said in a recent article that Skype is a useful tool for councillors to interact with residents and may be the new way of conducting ward surgeries: “From my back garden I’ve conducted Skype ward surgeries with residents working in Dubai”. But this doesn’t mean it should only be used for people in different countries, sometimes it can just be a matter of not being able to have a face-to-face meeting due to busy schedules. It also has the added advantage of councillors being able to present a more complete picture of themselves to their community.
Included in his tips for those wanting to try out this avenue of communication is getting comfortable with technology; conducting thorough camera and microphone checks; choosing a time suitable to all parties; getting the word out about the ward surgery via online forums, council magazines etc.; and doing one’s homework and research just as one would for a traditional surgery.
Just one warning, he says: “Having a presence on the internet will change your workload; I estimate about 40% of my caseload now comes in via online activity.”
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