Wakefield Council leader says residents’ views must be taken seriously as major consultation programme is launched

The leader of Wakefield Council said residents’ views must be listened to as the local authority launches the largest consultation project with communities it has ever carried out.

By Tony Gardner
Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 5:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 5:17 pm

Councillor Denise Jeffery said the Big Conversation programme must “really mean something” as funding was approved to carry out the scheme.

Coun Jeffery made the comments after a reportrevealed that less than a third of Wakefield Council residents feel the local authority takes their views into account when making decisions.

The programme will involve speaking to 1,200 residents to find out what issues matter the most to them.

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Wakefield Council Denise Jeffrey said residents’ views must be listened to as the local authority launches the largest consultation project with communities it has ever carried out.

Speaking at the council’s Cabinet meeting, Coun Jeffery said: “The Big Conversation is about connecting residents and communities across the district.

“It is about listening and learning and understanding what is important to people’s lives and people’s hopes for the future.

“It is a different way of connecting with communities.”

In July last year, the Wakefield Council Reputation Tracker showed that less than a third of residents (31%) feel the council takes into account their views when making decisions.

Coun Jeffery said 80 members of staff have been recruited to consult 1,200 residents by the end of August as part of the programme.

She added:”We all, as elected members, signed up for this and think the residents feel that we are listening to what they have to say and what matters to them.

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“But what does matter is that, when we get all the comments back, we start to implement the things that they are saying.

“Otherwise they will think ‘well was that a waste of time or what?’

“This will have to really mean something.

“When we set out to do this we were determined that it was real and it did mean something.

“We have had consultations before and I think we haven’t implemented them as well as we could do.

“So I think this time we must follow through with what people are asking.”

The Cabinet approved a recommendation to commit £390,000 of funding to support the programme.

A report states: “It is the biggest, most ambitious consultation with residents that the council has ever done.

“The Big Conversation itself is just the start of a different way of working with residents.

“It will build an evidence base to inform future policy and ways of working and result in a long-term council programme.”

The programme also aims to involve marginalised and vulnerable groups in terms of improved services.

Children and young people are also expected to form a key part of the programme.

A website has been developed so members of the public will be able to see results of the survey.