This is a fascinating article from Newbury Today. The whole online article is posted below and it raises some interesting questions about how social media is treated in the field of public engagement.
Newbury Today Article starts…
The 1,715 people who joined a Facebook group opposing parking fees at the Nature Discovery Centre are unlikely to have their opinions counted.
The online campaign ‘We Don’t Want Parking Charges at Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre’ directed people to make their views known on the official West Berkshire Council online public consultation, but only about 250 did so.
Spokesman Phil Spray admitted that the 250 respondents was higher than average number of responses to public consultations.
He also said that the Facebook group was unlikely to be taken into consideration by the council when it decided whether it would be introducing a £1 daily car parking charge at the Muddy Lane centre.
“Many of those who contributed to the site have also submitted comments directly to the council,” he said. “Posts on social networking sites are not normally included in our consultation process because it can be difficult to establish the identity of those who comment.”
The group was set up by Thatcham woman Lynn Turner, who said that her next step would depend on the outcome of the consultation.
She said: “If they see sense and don’t go ahead, I won’t do anything else. If they do, then we will relaunch the campaign.”
The issue was discussed by members of Thatcham Town Council’s finance and general purposes committee on Monday.
Councillor Phil Dray (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said that Thatcham residents already paid tax through West Berkshire Council and the town council precept.
“I just think it’s wrong to ask people to pay multiple times for a facility,” he said. “West Berkshire Council should not underestimate local opinion, especially networking sites.”
The public consultation closed on Thursday and the responses will be made into a summary table, which will be provided to everyone who responded and included in a report to the council. The issue is due to be discussed by the executive tomorrow (Thursday) and a decision is expected in early July.
So what do you think? Should these responses be counted? Can organisations seriously ignore social media? We don’t think so!