Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is cru­cial for coun­cil

The Oban Times - - Letters -

Sir, I was left speech­less by the story on your front page last week (‘Coun­cil­lors plea for end to crit­i­cisms on so­cial me­dia’, The Oban Times, Fe­bru­ary 16).

I can only as­sume there is some sort of award for the most ar­chaic and out of touch lo­cal au­thor­ity and this story was a stun­ning at­tempt by some of our coun­cil­lors to claim this ac­co­lade.

Ig­nor­ing is­sues raised on so­cial me­dia is an at­ti­tude that be­longs in the past. So­cial me­dia is a fan­tas­tic tool for com­mu­nity en­gage­ment; some­thing that we are re­peat­edly told our coun­cil is com­mit­ted to.

When the ‘tra­di­tional’ meth­ods of con­tact­ing Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil de­liver no re­sults, so­cial me­dia can be the cat­a­lyst for change.

I have first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of this with a bin is­sue on Iona. Af­ter email had ended with the stan­dard re­sult of noth­ing hap­pen­ing, a Twit­ter ex­change be­tween res­i­dents, coun­cil­lors and my­self even­tu­ally led to the so­lu­tion.

In re­gards to the Soroba bins prob­lem, did our coun­cil­lors refuse to act out of spite or as some sort of cru­sade against the in­creased use of so­cial me­dia? They were aware of the prob­lem, had enough time to see there were 61 com­ments, had enough time to take of­fence at crit­i­cisms, had enough time to dis­cuss the mat­ter with your news­pa­per and yet we are to be­lieve that they some­how did not have a few sec­onds to write a quick re­sponse on the Face­book post.

Surely any tool that makes it eas­ier to in­ter­act with our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives should be em­braced and en­cour­aged.

There is hypocrisy in this story, too. The coun­cil’s Twit­ter page is of­ten used to pub­li­cise ‘ good news’ sto­ries and coun­cil­lors pro­mote the good job they are do­ing via their own so­cial me­dia ac­counts. I am happy for our coun­cil­lors to demon­strate the good work they do but you can­not have one with­out the other. Crit­i­cism is healthy and the res­i­dents of Ar­gyll and Bute have ev­ery right to crit­i­cise their coun­cil­lors.

There is a down­side to open fo­rums such as Face­book and Twit­ter which is that it opens us all up to abuse and ha­rass­ment, which should not be tol­er­ated.

For Ar­gyll and Bute to have a healthy, ro­bust and ef­fec­tive coun­cil, all av­enues of in­ter­ac­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, en­gage­ment and ac­count­abil­ity must be utilised. That means tele­phone, writ­ten mail, elec­tronic mail, so­cial me­dia, surg­eries or even a dis­cus­sion in the street.

I would be will­ing to re­turn to car­rier pi­geon if I thought it would help my voice be heard. Cameron An­son, Fion­nphort, Isle of Mull.

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