About Me

Full-time husband and dad, Head of Governance and Democratic Services at Kirklees Council. Passionate about democracy, local government, Sheffield United, my mountain bike and punk rock. Views here are my own

Saturday, 5 February 2011

I Blame the Officers

Last week saw the last of our social media sessions for councillors.  It was a great finish in Leeds where we had a cracking group of enthusiastic and interested councillors from across the region.  Full details of those sessions can be found at Cllrsocmed.  

Over the course of the five sessions there was one theme that was coming out loud and clear - the officers are the problem.  Now let's make it clear, I am a fully paid up member of the officer corps and have worked with councillors a long time.  The officer / councillor dynamic is no different to any relationship, it's complex, multi-faceted and often subjective.

That said, the majority of the councillors who attended our sessions were clearly of the mind that their organisations and their officers were barriers to progressing their social media journey.  It gives me no satisfaction to say that IT, Web, Comms and Democratic Services all came in for some degree of criticism.  Problems ranged from the outright banning of social media, to the lack of developmental support and the provision of tools (telephony in particular) that were not up to the job.  Whilst councillors did not want to be spoon fed, they did want a degree of importance placed on this whole agenda by their own organisations.  The word "culture" cropped up a few times and I think this is important.

I am pretty sure that organisational culture is not entirely determined by its officers.  It is for this reason we turned these discussions back to the councillors in the room.  They and their councillor colleagues provide the political leadership, they take the decisions.  Perhaps they have a considerable role in what happens next on their social media journey.  I got the feeling that some of those councillors intended to take the discussions back into their organisations and affect the necessary cultural change.  I hope so.  Through Cllrsocmed we are hoping to keep in touch with those councillors and find out "what happens next".  Watch this space.

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