The Raven's Blog

09.06.20

CASE STUDY: Birmingham City Council tackle online meetings

Emma Williamson – Head of Scrutiny Services at Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council held an online Extraordinary Meeting of the Full Council, with 80 members, on 28th April. The Council have now held 15 meetings via Microsoft Teams, including Licensing hearings, Scrutiny meetings and Cabinet meetings.

As the impact of Covid-19 became clear, Birmingham City Council officers from democratic services and IT formed a project group to propose a way forward for formal meetings to take place remotely.

The technical challenge the IT team was set was to find a solution that enabled over 100 participants to be in a meeting, with audio and video, and that allowed meetings to be livestreamed, recorded and subsequently uploaded to our website.

The solution development stage looked at multiple technologies from different providers encompassing both audio and video conferencing. Microsoft Teams had been rolled out across the organisation in the months before the lockdown, and officers were becoming accustomed to using it for internal meetings. And although members had not used it extensively, it had been rolled out to them so was already loaded on their laptops. However, it didn’t satisfy all of the requirements in it’s out of the box configuration. Microsoft were consulted and the discussions resulted in testing a hybrid Teams Meeting and Live Event solution.

We also worked with our webcasting contractor, Civico, who take the Live Event stream and play it through their website, ensuring that members of the public could access meetings in the same that they always have done.

Training Members

Once the solution had been tested, we set about providing training for members. Guidance was produced but more effectively, members’ “chat room” sessions were held – over several weeks (Birmingham has 99 members at the present time) – for members to “drop in” and test their connections, use of the different functions and practice with the voting forms.

The Extraordinary Meeting of the Full Council

The feedback from the meeting was positive – though no-one thinks this approach will replace face to face meetings long term! Whilst the agenda was short, just two items, it took a lot of preparation to get right. The resources needed to make it happen should not be underestimated – with input from members, democratic services officers and an IT team in support.

We also used Ms Forms for voting, which worked well in giving a clear vote; we shared the overall results on screen. It also gave us the option to show names on the screen as required.

A second Full Council meeting is planned for 9th June – again with a shortened agenda but now including the opportunity for members to ask questions to Cabinet Members.

Lessons Learned

The main lessons learned were:

Preparing the members and supporting the chairs is key – running these meetings is harder than a physical meeting and demands a fresh approach.

Participants need to be encouraged join the meeting early to check their connection – regardless of how many times you do it, there can always be hiccups or local connection problems.

Everyone needs a clear understanding of how the meetings will be held, their roles and how to interact with the Chair and each other.

Testing, testing, testing!

 

The future

We will continue to schedule on-line meetings throughout May and June – we’re now exploring the use of video (initial meetings were audio only) including the use of a corporate background to give a consistent view.

The next challenge will be so-called “hybrid” meetings – whereby some members are present in the Council Chamber and others join via remote means. As the lockdown eases, more members will want to come into the Council House, whereas others must stay shielded.

We also await the Government’s next move on this – there have long been calls from some members for remote voting, to support members to work more flexibly. However, the regulations that currently permit this expire in May 2021.

 

LISTEN: Ep. 13 Building economic resilience through local powers

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Gov announces £10m Tourism Package for small businesses

03/07/2020Gov announces £10m Tourism Package for small businesses

The Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Simon Clarke, has announced a £10m Kick-starting Tourism Package today (July 3) to s... more >
Wakefield Council secures £1.75m from Towns Fund

03/07/2020Wakefield Council secures £1.75m from Towns Fund

Wakefield Council has secured a £1.75m Government grant (July 2), to support projects to immediately improve Wakefield city centre and Cast... more >
West Midlands secures £66m for 'shovel ready' projects

03/07/2020West Midlands secures £66m for 'shovel ready' projects

Up to £66m in additional Government funding has been secured by the West Midlands today (July 3) to begin a series of ‘shovel ready&r... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been th... more > more last word articles >

the raven's daily blog

Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

23/06/2020Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

Evolution is crucial in any business and Public Sector Executive is no different. Long before Covid-19 even became a thought in the back of our minds, the team at PSE were looking at innovative ways to deliver its content to our audience in a more dynamic and responsive manner. We’re conscious to take the time to both prot... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Being on the receiving end of some “thanks” can make communit... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues that community-led initiatives are a productive way of helping to solve... more >
Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

19/06/2019Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

Aberdeen City Council’s hydrogen spokesperson, councillor Philip Bell, highlights the Granite City’s determination to play a leading ... more >
A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

13/06/2019A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

A fifth of the country’s public sector workers say they have NEVER received a ‘thank you’ for doing their job as Public Service... more >

interviews

Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need to invest in technology to help make better use of their resources. Bu... more >
Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welcomed a new member to its team. Matt Spencer, O2’s head of public ... more >
New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >

public sector focus

View all News