Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Broxtowe Borough Council











  Appendix 1—Community Services Committee Report of the Director of Technical & Leisure Services on "It's Your Future"

  Appendix 2—Press Briefing on "It's Your Future"


  (1)  Methods of Consultation and Key Stakeholders Consulted within the Borough

  (2)  Broxtowe Borough Council's Community Plan Consultation Process


  (1)  Borough of Broxtowe


  Broxtowe Borough Council is a local authority situated to the west of Nottingham and to the north and south of the districts of Rushcliffe and Ashfield respectively, with the towns of the Erewash Valley of Derbyshire to the west. The estimated population of the Borough is 107,140 (1991 census)—key towns being Beeston, Stapleford, Eastwood and Kimberley. The Council is committed to building better communities and on this basis has made great efforts to engage the public in consultation in order to include them as partners in the decision making process. With a tradition of developing innovative solutions to local problems Broxtowe Borough Council trialed and then developed a large scale citizen participation exercise in June to October 1998, entitled "It's Your Future". With 13 roadshows throughout the borough and with the use of the "Planning for Real" technique, the Council has been able to identify local issues to be resolved through the community planning process. This has led to increased public awareness of local government functions, the foundations for a more interactive relationship between the Borough and its residents/service users, an improved Council image and more importantly, improved delivery of Council services, Broxtowe Borough Council commends its approach to promoting community well being through citizen participation in the form of "It's Your Future" to other local authorities for them to consider and follow.


  The Borough of Broxtowe is bounded to the east by the City of Nottingham, to the north and south by the districts of Ashfield and Rushcliffe, and to the west by the towns of the Erewash Valley in Derbyshire. The map on page 3 shows the extent of the Borough. The estimated population of Broxtowe, according to the 1991 census was 107,140. The bulk of the population is concentrated in urban areas which centre on Beeston (20,023), Stapleford (17,165), Eastwood (11,643) and Kimberley (4,600). Each of these is a consolidation of earlier smaller settlements. Awsworth and Brinsley are sizeable, separate communities Cossall and Strelley have remained small villages. As a local authority Broxtowe Borough Council recognises that there is no single centre.

  2.1.  The Borough can be divided into two—north and south. The northern settlements, which were originally rural, developed in association with coal mining, although there are now no active pits in the area. As a consequence of this decline, considerable physical, economic and social change is occurring in tandem with housing and industrial development. The towns in the south of the Borough, whilst historically related to the textile industry of the Nottingham area and the Erewash Valley, have developed as part of the wider built up area around Nottingham. They do, however, each retain a specific community identity. The area is heavily built up and small areas of open land separating main settlements are being encroached upon in recent decades by post-war residential development.

  The Borough has strong links with adjoining areas both in terms of housing and employment because of its situation in relation to Nottingham. There are however, several large individual employers including The Boots Company Plc, Siemens and Chetwynd Barracks at Chilwell, which provide a large part of the employment opportunities in the south. Contraction has however, occurred at Siemens and Chilwell. The only remaining links to the coal industry in the north are existing and proposed open cast sites.[3] The Hardy-Hanson Brewery is an important employer in Kimberley and there is a large bakery in Watnall. There are a few other single, large employers in the north but new jobs have mainly been provided in recent years through the development and occupation of a number of industrial units on the A610 corridor. The shopping and service functions of the four town centres are also important sources of employment, in addition to their role as commercial and social focal points for the community.

  2.2  Broxtowe Borough Council is committed to building better communities and on this basis have made great efforts to engage the public in consultation, in order to include them as partners in the decision making process. This Council recognises the value of community ownership and participation. We are making great strides towards changing our culture as a local authority from delivering purely services, to having an increasingly equal interest in the services provided by other agencies. This we are achieving through the development of our Local Agenda 21 Strategy and our forthcoming Community Plan. On this basis we submit our approach to citizen participation, "It's Your Future", as a model for others to consider and follow. In addition we seek to demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of a highly proactive consultation process.


  Broxtowe Borough Council in recent years has endeavoured to engage the community through a number of initiatives. Table 1 shows the methods of consultation used within the Borough and indicates the key stakeholder groups consulted.

Table 1


Methods of Consultation Stakeholders
Civic EventsBorough Residents (including
Correspondenceparticular groups such as the young,
Customer comment cardsSenior Citizens and ethnic
LeafletsCitizens Advice Bureau
Manned DisplaysChurches
Meetings-formal/informalEconomic Development Organisations
Planning for RealHomeless
PresentationsLocal Authority Tenants
Press ReleasesLow Income Groups
QuestionnairesNottingham University
ReportsParish/Town Councils
RoundtablesRegistered Social Landlords
Talk to GroupsSchools/Colleges
NewslettersStatutory Bodies
Trades Guild
Voluntary Groups/Organisations

  In 1997 the Borough's Community Development Section reviewed the Council's approach to citizen participation in preparation for the development of a Community Plan. As a result of this research, the section identified a number of lessons to be learnt:

    (1)  To consult on only specific issues that are of key importance and relevance to the community. In this way the Council is working for its citizens as their ambassador and leader. It can only fulfil this role by knowing who its community is.

    (2)  To encourage citizen participation through a range of mechanisms.

    (3)  To accept that the community does "know best", provided it has all the information it requires to resolve the issues affecting it. Thus allowing social solutions to flourish from within society.

    (4)  To ensure that citizens and our community are fully involved in the planning and provision of services to ensure their own well being.

  On the basis of this research work, Broxtowe Borough Council devised a citizen participation exercise to take place during June-October 1998. The aim was to provide sufficient information to assist in the development of a Community Plan, the Council's Local Agenda 21 (LA21) strategy and provide an initial Best Value perspective. The exercise was called "It's Your Future".

3.1  "It's Your Future"—A model for Citizen Participation

  The Community Development Section identified the "Planning for Real" technique as the ideal vehicle for engaging the community to facilitate citizen participation. This technique had previously been used on a small scale in Stapleford and Beeston Rylands and produced a high level of participation from the community (750 people). In order to develop the Community Plan therefore, in partnership with the citizens of Broxtowe, "Planning for Real" was incorporated into a series of one off events around the Borough. This was promoted as the "It's Your Future" roadshow.

  The staging of the roadshow was co-ordinated to ensure a corporate approach was taken to citizen participation. Table 2 and appendices 1 and 2 illustrate the scale of the exercise and the degree to which this Borough is committed to working with its community.

Table 2


Date 1998

Broxtowe Borough Council Staff
Friday 12 June
Town Hall, Beeston
Cossall, Strelley & Trowell
Wednesday 17 June
Trowell Parish Hall
Thursday 18 June
Nuthall Temple Community Centre
Kimberley, Babbington & Watnall
Saturday 20 June
Kimberley School
Wednesday 15 July
Brinsley Parish Hall
Thursday 16 July
Awsworth Parish Hall
Eastwood & Giltbrook
Sunday 19 July
Eastwood Hobbyfest Site
Saturday 5 September
New Stapleford Community Centre
Friday 11 September
Bramcote Memorial Hall
13 September
Greenwood Community Centre
Beeston Rylands
Thursday 1 October
Trent Vale Infants
Friday 2 October
Sunnyside School
Saturday 10 October
Beeston Lads' Club

  The first event allowed elected members and Council employees to make their views known and acted as a training day for the staff concerned. The authority then proactively took the initiative out into the community encouraging full citizen participation.

  The full range of council services were included in the information provided at each event, to encourage stimulated dialogue on all aspects of Council work. The overall aim of the consultation was to harness citizen participation in the community planning process. Only by liaising with its community directly can the Council endeavour to match services with public need.

  In order to encourage public attendance and participation, the Council arranged the following attractions at each event:

    —  community market places;
    —  mobile creche;
    —  bouncy castle;
    —  refreshments.

  The events were managed and staffed by Council employees who were easily identifiable on the event days and at many events there was support from local voluntary groups.

  All householders in the area were leafleted, community groups were invited and local schools were encouraged to attend so children could have their input and participate in the exercise.

3.1.1  The structure of each event

  On entry to the event, people were given a card indicating the format of the day and how they could have their say.

  As with the previous "Planning for Real" events, at each venue there was a large map of the locality in the centre of the exhibition room. Careful consideration was given to the way in which information was provided to explain the issues in plain English. A range of simple methods of responding were used, for example, by sticking pins into boards and encouraging people to indicate by writing on small topic cards, issues that were relevant to their area and in particular their concerns in respect of road safety, play facilities, environmental improvements and other Council services. All issues had to be specific and were pinned onto the map at the locations where they were relevant.

  All directorates co-operated in the production of topic boards which were displayed around the edge of the room. These provided information on Council services, performance statistics, as well as additional information on issues already raised through the Local Agenda 21 process. There were also question boards relating to services for people to answer.

3.1.2  What happened with the information

  Following each event the information collected was transferred into a database in order to identify issues of concern. The answers to the specific questions were tabulated into area and borough-wide responses.

  Question board results were compiled and presented in graph form and collated into a bound document. Customer comments cards/leaflets opinions and map issues were tabulated according to the consulted topic issues: amenities, natural environment, pollution, built environment/use of land, transport, energy, housing, health, leisure/tourism, waste, crime, LA21, finance and concessionary allowances, community plan, economic development. A summary of the feedback and a copy of the full results were placed in the Council's Members' room. Each director and Committee Chair was provided with a copy of the "It's Your Future—Question Board Data 1998" and took the information into consideration when assessing their budget priorities. The map issues/comment cards were distributed within the Council.

  Each directorate responded where appropriate either in the form of correspondence to individual households or through implementing service delivery changes within budgetary constraints and present policies.

  Analysis of this information and that obtained from other consultations eg the local plan and parish reviews are forming the basis of the Council's Community Plan due to be released in 2000.

3.1.3  Feedback from "It's Your Future"

  General comments were:

    Residents who attended were very pleased to be given the opportunity to comment on Council services. They were impressed by the range and cost of services provided by the Council although 60 per cent of respondents thought that Broxtowe Borough Council does not give sufficient information about its services. Appendix 1 provides further specific detail on feedback.

3.1.4  Analysis

  All comments from the community consultation exercise were analysed and have led to five key elements being identified for the Council. These are:

    (1)  Regenerating communities through partnerships.

    (2)  Clean, healthy and valued environments.

    (3)  Fighting crime for a safer district.

    (4)  Providing safe and affordable housing.

    (5)  Ensuring that residents have access to leisure facilities and opportunities.

  These form the basis of the Council's developing Community Plan, LA 21 strategy and corporate approach to strategic policy development, particularly the current renewal of the Local Plan. The priorities identified have since been taken into account when establishing Broxtowe Borough Council's Best Value performance plan.

3.2  Attendance

  The total attendance was 1,179 an average of 91 people. This was lower than the two earlier events, which were 250 (Beeston Rylands) and 500 (Stapleford). As the roadshow programme progressed, publicity increased, publishing press articles and giving radio interviews to encourage attendance. The conclusion was that consultation on local government services in general is not "sexy" enough to attract major interest. There needs to be a contentious or NIMBY element to achieve big attendances.

3.3  Representation

  The distribution of attendance through age ranges was very uneven, despite opening into the evenings and at weekends in the major centres.

  The conclusion was that whilst the quality of response was good, it could not be accepted as representative of all inhabitants of the Borough.


  Both local and central government have begun to explore new methods of citizen consultation and participation. To assess Broxtowe Borough Council's approach to this initiative it is important to consider:

    (1)  The cost and benefits of "It's Your Future".

    (2)  The implications of this technique for representative government, and

    (3)  The potential for this innovative approach to strengthen the democratic process.

4.1  The Cost and Benefits of "It's Your Future"

(i)  Costs

  The cost of the roadshows including equipment hire, publication of display board material, venue hire, transport, interactive displays, publicity, advertising and staging was £16,000. In addition a team of seven employees was required for each event.

(ii)  Benefits

  As a consequence of "It's Your Future", Broxtowe Borough Council received the following benefits:

    (a)  Increased public awareness of Council services. Allowing people to recognise exactly what the Council does and doesn't do. "It's Your Future" identified that a significant proportion of people believed the Council was responsible for many activities outside the scope of local government. Through this exercise it was possible to address this perception and clarify who does what within the Borough.

    (b)  The foundations for a more interactive relationship between the authority and its residents/service users were laid, as the Council, through this Community Planning exercise, became more accessible to the public.

    (c)  The Council's image has improved throughout the Borough, by demonstrating a shift from the traditional stance of one way communication to a participatory process engaging and listening to the community. This has continued as the Council has developed its services with its citizens.

4.2  The Implications of such Techniques for Representative Government

  "It's Your Future" emphasised that as a Council Broxtowe was pro-actively seeking to listen to its community and act upon its views. The approach taken clearly says to its citizens "we are here to work in partnership with you, to promote the well-being of our area and the people who live and are employed here". However, this direct approach carried a risk since it raised expectations. Should actions not occur following exercises of this nature the local authority's credibility would be called into question.

4.3  The Potential for such Innovations to strengthen the Democratic Process

  This type of consultation process engages with the community to develop a better understanding of how local government works and what is important to the community. Through active participation fostering a sense of involvement and importance to community members by the local authority, community members develop a greater understanding of the role and mechanisms involved in the running of local services. Through this level of participation and interest, local people begin to understand the wider democratic processes and how their involvement in the process can make a direct impact to their lives and community. Thus creating a more pro-active relationship between citizens, local government and the wider democratic processes.


  Broxtowe Borough Council is committed to promoting the well-being of its community. This Council recognises that it is best placed "to take a comprehensive overview of the needs and priorities of its local area and community". On this basis we are leading our citizens to greater levels of partnership through innovative participation techniques such as "It's Your Future". We are minded to tackle local issues driven from the "bottom up" in order to provide better services for all and shall continue to develop such techniques to engage and develop the community. An example of this is our increasing commitment to tackling social exclusion which identifies us as a body who are putting people first as we progress into the new millennium.

  Taking Council services and activities to the people by means of a roadshow has generated public interest and participation in the decision making processes at Broxtowe Borough Council. As a result, our awareness of the problems perceived by each of our communities has been significantly raised. "Planning for Real" has been proven to be an extremely useful tool and user friendly technique.

  Broxtowe's experience has shown considerable benefits of citizen participation and also demonstrated that a range of methods will be needed to achieve a balanced awareness of the views of the community. As an approach to engaging our "customers" we commend it for others to consider and follow.

2   Appendix, Tables and Map not printed. Back

3   Since this evidence was originally submitted, opencasting has disappeared. Back

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