Ashburton District Council aims to bolster communication deadlines

7:48 pm on 31 January 2022

Improving Ashburton District Council's response times with the community is at the centre of its communications policy.

Ashburton employers are struggling to find workers.

File photo: Ashburton Photo: Ashburton District Council

The council adopted a revised communications policy at last week's meeting, mapping out "reasonable and realistic" timeframes for officers to respond to queries from the public.

However, there were some concerns expressed by elected members about dealings with the media and how much of their interactions were administered by council staff.

"We are aware that there have been some concerns raised in the community around council staff getting back to people," council policy adviser Rachel Thomas said.

"We want to give them assurance that they will be contacted within a certain time."

More complex enquiries would likely lengthen timeframes, Thomas told councillors.

"These are targets - we will do our best."

Council chief executive Hamish Riach said his staff were getting thousands of requests each month, which made it difficult to monitor the success rate on a consistent basis.

"What we're acknowledging here is that making an enquiry with council and not hearing back is not good enough," he said.

The policy stipulates the council should acknowledge an enquiry from the public within two business days, and respond accordingly within five business days.

It also recommended that elected members keep council staff in the loop on any dealings with the media.

Some councillors hinted that the guidelines restrained their scope to publicise their views as elected representatives.

"If you're approached by the media, I'm not going to advise the communications team and be told what I'm going to say or not say," councillor Stuart Wilson said.

"I thought we were entitled to pass our comment without going back to the communications team."

The council said it was merely a recommendation and that the guidelines were in place to support councillors.

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