Lamp post at night

Billericay Town Councillor, Jules Bottazzi offers another useful update on local issues.

February is the month streetlights are due to go off in Billericay between midnight and 5am. There are some exemptions: areas of high footfall, such as around the High Street and station; at major junctions and roundabouts, and so on.

My personal view on part-night lighting is that it's good to save money and kind to the environment, but that each area should be considered on its own merits.

In Billericay, we have a thriving late-night bar scene on the High Street and the last train gets in after 1.30am, so I had hoped 2-6am was a more suitable option for us. It's not to be, unfortunately.

Essex County Council has agreed to some exemptions, most of which were raised by the town council, and full details are here: http://www.essexhighways.org/Transport-and-Roads/Roads-and-Pavements/Street-lighting/Partnight-lighting/Basildon.aspx

The most startling thing to come out of the street lighting debate for me, though, was how little debate there was... largely because none of my peer group knew anything about it until I told them. It got me thinking about how councils, generally, communicate with the public.

Social media

I'm a voracious user of social media, as are most 20 to 40-somethings, and the 50-plus sector are taking to it in their droves, too.

Traditionally, councils have relied on public consultations in the local press, at libraries, on notice boards and so on. Yet it seems perfect common sense to me that, if the younger generation are using social media and online communities like this one, councils have to make use of this media too. Otherwise, we're not properly talking to, and representing, the very people who voted for us.

Essex and Basildon councils both have a social media presence and it's something I very much hope Billericay Town Council will achieve soon.

To me, it's a no-brainer; I get most of my casework for residents from Twitter. Like it or not, online is how many of us communicate now! I wanted to write for this fantastic local website because it has a large local readership and an interactive community (Tweet @BillericayEssex or use #Billericay).

I also hope that, if councils start making use of new media to connect and interact with the public, younger people will become more engaged in our little level of local government and maybe politics in general. It's shocking how few people vote, but I can understand some apathy if you never know anything about what's going on in your town.

However. If you have an opinion about the streetlights going off... If you care about the state of the roads... If you have a view on building on green belt land... Then guess what? You care about local politics!

St Valentine

Finally, February is also St Valentine's month and I hope you all have a wonderfully romantic day. Or, if you're like me, I hope you manage to actually get the kids to sleep by 9.30pm so that you can have a couple of hours' peace with your other half!

Article submitted by Billericay Town Councillor Jules Bottazzi. Follow @cllrjules on Twitter

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