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9 Feb 2012

'We Need to Talk' Success and Next Steps

Reading Borough Council Press Release

The success of the first phase of Reading Borough Council's 'We Need To Talk' public engagement programme is outlined in a report going to a Cabinet meeting later this month, along with the next steps in the process.

Last summer year the Council launched a new way of working with local people, aimed at building long-lasting relationships with local residents and providing new opportunities to influence Council decisions and services. The 'We Need to Talk' public engagement initiative focused on the difficult decisions facing the council in the current economic climate and gave local people the chance to have their say on the issues that matter most to them and their communities.

With 780 online responses, 30 community engagement events spread across the borough and a successful community event at the Town Hall attended by 150 people, Reading residents have provided a rich source of information on their priorities. A separate Resident's Survey confirmed the feedback received in the 'We Need to Talk' consultation.

Crime, clean streets, road and pavements repairs, levels of traffic congestion, good schools and public transport were all identified as important areas for Reading residents.  Crime and clean streets were identified as the highest priorities. This information is consistent with the Council's 2008 and 2009 Residents Surveys, although affordable housing has moved up significantly in importance since they took place.

Strengths for Reading were highlighted as parks and open spaces, good neighbours, health services, public transport and good schools.

Young people highlighted youth centres, activities and places to meet, buses and transport, educational and employment as the most important areas for them.

The Residents Survey showed that many people have a real appetite for being part of an on-going programme of engagement, either on specific topics of interest or more broadly.

People's views and priorities are being used by Reading Borough Council to inform budget decisions going forward, including in responding to people's concerns about protecting key frontline services.

The report - which goes to meeting of Reading Borough Council's Cabinet on February 13th - includes detailed information on the results of the public consultation as well as describing the next steps in the process in an appendix which includes detail on how priorities are being taken forward with further resident involvement.

Some of the next steps include:
" On-going follow through with ideas and suggestions from phase 1 of the 'We Need To Talk' consultation
" Further development of a database of residents who wish to be consulted or involved further, on specific subjects or generally
" Further development the link between the engagement programme and the budget setting process, including ongoing dialogue about the hard decisions the Council must make in the face of a reducing budget
" The delivery of a 'Let's Talk Health' initiative to inform and shape local priorities when national reforms are implemented

Jan Gavin, Reading's Lead Councillor for Service Delivery and Improvement, said: 'This administration promised residents that we would listen to them, so we have started a conversation with residents about what is most important to them. Even though there is less money, we want to work with residents to find new and better ways to deliver improved services. Residents will be able to see in the budget for next year that we have listened and taken action on what they have told us matters to them. This is not a one-off, we will continue to listen and talk to residents.'

Bet Tickner, Lead Councillor for Public Engagement and Health, added: 'The Council has now launched 'Let's Talk Health.' We are asking Reading residents to tell us what are their priorities for their own health and for healthcare in Reading, via a survey and public meetings. It's important to ask residents this now because, under the NHS Bill now going through Parliament, the Council will in future have a role in co-ordinating healthcare in Reading. We are determined that the public must have a voice in setting these priorities for health, after all it's our NHS..'

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