Tweeting from the town halls: The case of Kirklees Council

Earlier on this year we blogged about the debate heating up over tweeting from the town halls. Amy Kitcher, a Lib Dem councillor from Methyr, found herself being ticked off for tweeting her council meeting by fellow councillor Mr Parry, who complained that while he had “no problem with twitter… in the meeting you should be listening to what’s taking place.” Ms Kitcher responded that she was simply “using it as a means of engaging with the people who elected me.”

It seems as though Kirklees Council support Ms Kitcher’s point of view, not only allowing councillors to tweet from meetings, but inviting it’s online network to get involved in real time. Carl Whistlecraft, who works for Kirklees Council, explained why they’ve dipped their toes into the social web:

As part of our ongoing commitment to promote democracy, we have been looking at ways to make our decision making processes as engaging, open and interesting as possible. Building on the work we have been doing to promote social media as useful tools for our councillors, we have also been looking at how we can apply the same tools to the democratic functions that we support and provide. Once we made the decision to webcast Council meetings it was a natural progression to look at how we could promote its existence and then try and generate engagement and dialogue as well. Twitter has proved to be the ideal tool, providing a platform for wider involvement by local residents and Twitter users far and wide. It’s another cheap and easy way to try and crack the challenge of getting people interested in the decisions that local politicians take on their behalf. It also goes some considerable way in demystifying the processes and showing people that councillors are real people too.

Councillors debated and tweeted issues through the meeting, with recent snowy conditions and the effects they have had on local services featuring heavily:

This live tweeting gave everyone listening in online a chance to find out more about what their local representatives were up to and what they were trying to achieve. However, this wasn’t a one way conversation, the meeting gave itself a hashtag #KirkCouncil where residents could directly react and get involved in the issues that cropped up:

The meeting seemed to be highly supported  by the councillors and residents taking part, with the live stream receiving over 600 views, possibly demonstrating a more effective way to get involved in local politics and speed up strong local democracy. With all the talk of big society, active communities and empowering people to get involved in local service delivery, it provided a great and timely way to try out a different way to communicate – enabling a more two way, more human, local government:

We’d love to hear from other councils who are looking at ways to make the conversations going on in the town halls travel further. It’s easy to get in touch – you can tweet us over on @TweetyHall, or simply leave a comment below.

Post by Lauren Ivory