Council sees scope for community and business forums with third sector involvement on its website
A London local authority is planning to introduce online self-help forums for local residents and businesses on its website
In a move it believes to the first for a council, Enfield is aiming to launch the first forum early in the new year, initially focused on the local business community.
Tim Kidd, head of digital for the council, referred to the plan at a briefing staged by IT consultancy Pythagoras and dealing with Microsoft solutions. He said it is part of the council’s strategy for transforming customer services, and that it hopes to attract the involvement of third sector and community organisations that provide services.
Kidd told UKAuthority that the first forums will be for local businesses, dealing with issues such as how to obtain finance and transacting with the council. It will then move on to creating forums for the public.
“The idea is that if they are going through a process with the council they can ask if other local businesses have been through it before, or our staff could jump onto that stream to say ‘This is the answer’. Then you could index it to use it again and again.
“But there will have to be constraints around it. First and foremost you will have to have an account to use it as we don’t want just anyone jumping on.
“Then we have to learn about how to manage and maintain the forums, as we’re coming into this new.”
Rewards and rules
He said there could be scope for providing customers with rewards for providing answers, but there would have to be strict rules about how it would be managed.
“We’re aiming to have something running in January, using it as a seed and a trial,” he said. “Then as we become a bit braver and start to understand how it works, we can think about how we can create community support groups and look at getting the third sector involved.
“It comes back to the council not being responsible for dealing with absolutely everything, and if there are support groups that can help an individual, and you think of all the charity and voluntary groups, they have a part to play.”
He acknowledged that there would be limits on the services for which the forums could be used, and that they are unlikely to be appropriate for more complex and sensitive issues such as mental health and child protection.
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