Lies, Damned Lies and Acolaid Statistics
For those who don’t already know, Acolaid is a form of contact management system used by Reading Borough Council to record and chase up Councillor enquiries. It is meant to ensure that officers respond promptly to enquiries and keep the record of the response. I think it would be fair to say that its record is patchy.
These stats have become more contentious since the Lib Dems in the last local elections used Acolaid statistics to try to show that two of their Councillors were “the hardest working” Councillors, on the basis that they had the most Acolaid enquiries lodged. This approach has since been mimicked by the Greens in Park ward.
At this point I will declare that I am an average user of Acolaid; neither one of the highest users nor at the bottom but it is, to say the least, disingenuous to try to prove the level of a Councillor’s work rate from Acolaid statistics alone.
Firstly, as I am the Conservative Transport spokesman, I have regular contact and briefings with senior transport officers of the Council. I therefore use that opportunity to discuss transport issues with them that I might otherwise have submitted through Acolaid. I also feel freer to pick up the phone to them directly and ask them the questions that my constituents ask me. This is often the case with more experienced Councillors that they know who to contact directly and therefore by-pass the Acolaid system.
Secondly, Councillors do far more for their constituents than just submit Acolaid enquiries. We attend many meetings every month, ranging from attendance on panels and committees to directly representing constituents at planning or licensing committees; we speak on matters in Full Council; we submit written questions to the Council Leader and other executive Councillors; we attend neighbourhood meetings and external bodies; political Group meetings; and of course we hold our surgeries. Any measure of how hard a Councillor is working should seek to capture all of these activities and publish them for the public to see.
I am all for open government and therefore, in the absence of a more formal system, I propose on a monthly basis to publish a summary of my activity for my ward constituents to consider. In November 2008 I did the following:
Ward Surgery – 1
Committees and Panels Attended – 6
Full Council Meetings Attended – 2
Community Group Mtgs Attended – 2
External Committees and Panels – 1
School Governors’ Meeting – 1
Political Conservative Group Meetings – 2
Acolaid Enquiries Submitted – 4
Apologies sent – 1
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