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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Have your say on Citizens' Day! 

This is Birmingham City Council's cheerful slogan for Citizens' Day on 18th October. The Council's planning to set up a "Talking Tent" in Centenary Square that day, where people can tell councillors if they:

This all sounds fine enough - a bit too watered-down multiculturalist for me, but not too objectionable. Unfortunately, that's just the official poster. The language in which the council is discussing this more generally quickly degenerates into pretty dire Business Speak:

"We want... to give senior managers, officers and representatives of the City Council, the opportunity to observe, listen and learn from those who they might not have the opportunity to engage with, in the normal course of events... [The event] is also intended to support a corporate approach to consultation, which fosters imaginative modes of engagement and consultation to reach as broader [sic] range of people and communities as possible." (my italics)

So in practice Citizens' Day becomes something more like Patronising The Public Day. These managers and councillors represent - and presumably live in - a very large city, in which most income groups, races, religions, sexualities etc. are pretty well-represented (in numbers, anyway). Surely they should have tried to "engage with" these people before now? Or at least, this engagement shouldn't be seen as something so unusual as to deserve pigeonholing into its own day.

As for "imaginative modes of engagement and consultation", I'm currently having horrible visions of a balding middle-aged councillor coming out with a toe-curlingly bad "Representation Rap" at some point in the day. So I just hope that for once my imagination is more cruel than the Council...

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