Councillor on Medway Council: The Issues

Electronic Government

John Ward

The ability to conduct business with the Council by purely electronic means is something that is coming in a big way. It is not intended to do away with personal contact or other methods, but rather to add extra choices. This is to be welcomed and—once we are further down the road—nearly everyone will be able to see the benefits, even if they are techno-phobes or committed Luddites!

Quite apart from the direct benefits to us users of Council services, there are also substantial monetary savings to be made, thus releasing more money for running actual services rather than being lost in the bureaucracy.

All three Rochester South & Horsted ward Councillors (Ron, Nick and John) are long-term users of electronic communications media, and John has been spearheading the drive to provide documentation electronically to those who prefer it, using Council/Committee paperwork as a way to lead by example in this area. John has notched up a number of achievements in this respect, and was even once proposed as the Conservative Group's Backbench IT Champion, though this idea wasn't taken up.

In autumn 2004 John also became Medway Council's first Paperless Councillor, finally abandoning paper agendas and reports and taking a portable computer to meetings with all the documents required on the machine. This has been very successful at full Council, planning (development control) meetings and elsewhere, though this method isn't being introduced into scrutiny meetings just yet: it will take a while before that would be acceptable to the other participants, though it works fine at scrutiny pre-agenda briefings.

Meanwhile, the numerous moves toward total e-government capability with respect to Medway Council continues apace, and the Council's website has been completely overhauled as a major plank of this strategy.