Recently elected Labour councillor Felicity Mendelson explained the plan at Tuesday evening’s ward meeting at Holy Trinity Church.
At only her second ward meeting since her election, Mendelson said: “It has struck me how formal they are.”
She identified five distinct areas of the ward: the avenues (Fern, Holly etc); Jesmond Vale; Brandling/South Jesmond Farm; Sandyford; and the city centre.
The committee proposes to hold one of its six yearly meetings in each of these five areas, followed by a sixth annual general meeting to summarise and feed back on what has been discussed throughout the year.
Mendelson said they would post invitations to all residents of the area in which the next meeting was set to be held, although people from across the ward would be welcome. Letters would go out to the entire ward for the annual general meeting.
In consultation with local community groups and residents’ associations, the councillors hope to establish a series of themes based on issues that are important to local people, which will then feed into the meetings.
Councillors and residents will form “working groups” at the end of each meeting to achieve particular objectives and report back next time around.
The committee will also make clear the structure and timing of meetings, so that residents can turn up for the parts that are relevant to them.
The meetings will start with discussions of issues in the local area, followed by a workshop relating to one of the chosen themes, and finally a more formal section to discuss funding applications and ward business.
Labour councillor David Hardman also talked about making the meetings less formal and more comfortable for everyone to participate; but he sought residents’ opinions on how this could be achieved.
This may involve finding new venues for the meetings, large church halls hardly lending themselves to close, interactive discussions. The residents’ association at Vale House suggested using their communal flat when the committee comes to Jesmond Vale.
“As yet this plan isn’t set in stone,” Hardman said. “We’d very much like your input.”