On Friday 6th August, Sarah announced that she was to conduct her own ‘Big Conversation’ consultation with the residents of Brent East.

“Too many politicians think they know what’s best, without taking the time to listen to local people. I hope that Brent residents take the time to fill in the survey so that I can take up their issues both with the local Council as well as taking them up in Parliament.”

There is a PDF of the paper based survey available for download.

Is Sarah’s consultation exercise valuable or worthless? I’m taking apart the questionnaire, question set at a time - you’ll need to take a peek at it to see the actual questions.

Question Set 1 - Public Transport.

Could this data have been gathered by asking TfL to share their existing data? I know a large capturing exercise has been taking place recently - I’ve participated in it.

Question Set 2 - Education

Other than gathering whether or not a household has a member attending a local authority provided education facility, data available from census and enrollment figures, this question set has the purpose of gaging support for the ‘Scrap Tuition Fees’ campaign. The two - satisfaction with local authority provided education and univeristy tuition fees - are not linked. Why link them here?

Question Set 3 - Health

From what I understand of the performance monitoring within the NHS, the data gathered by this quesiton set is already available. (I’ll google for it later). Again, questions are being used as a method of gaging support for existing LD campaigns - rather than asking for input on what residents actually want campaigns on.

Question Set 4 - Crime

Crime. The issue guaranteed to get the blood pumping in the electorate. Nothing like the fear of crime to keep neo-cons in government. And I’m sure that stats on unreported crime are already available. There is a missed opportunity here. Why not ask residents how they feel (or even if they are aware!) about the Safer Neighbourhoods initiative launched only last week.

Question Set 5 - Roads and Pavements

Assign a rating of either /Poor/Adequate/Good/ for roads and pavements in my local area. And if I am aware of any repairs that need doing I’m to write them in a 3cm X 5cm box. A further missed opportunity! Why not get some feedback on the ‘Grot Spot’ campaign?

Question Set 6 - About You

Some demographic data gathering. And a second space for me to supply my email address (keen on these email addresses arn’t they - but the BELDs don’t quite seem to ‘get’ how to use technology to either advantage. more below).

Have Your Say!

Well, I am glad that there is a least a small ‘free text’ area on this double A4 side questionnaire. It measures 3cm X 5cm. Hope that the ‘issues or problems’ residents would like the BELDs to campaign on (note that it is ‘campaign on’, not ‘take direct action’ to resolve) locally.

Use Of Technology

I’m going to have to get critical now. Think for a moment what a survey is. You get together a whole bunch of questions (lets disregard for a moment that questions are loaded to only ever to support ones own views), you ask the questions of someone, you capture the information, you review it and report on it.

So, what use is it to have the survey as a downloadable PDF? A Brent constituent now has to print off the survey, fill it in and return it to the BELD office. Upon arrival in the BELD office, it’ll be opened (hopefully the envelope will be recycled - and the paper the questionnaire is printed on) and the data will be captured - I hope electronically, but given the data gathering method is paper based I’m not holding out much hope.

Why not have questionnaires as a web forms? Users of the website would be able to complete the questionnaire online and the BELD office could receive the data electronically for a quick CTRL-C / CTRL-V into a spreadsheet.

This last criticism is perhaps only a nit-pick. The link doesn’t go directly to the file to be downloaded. It goes to a page with PDF downloads. The first (and only) ‘Residents Survey’ document visible on the page (and I run at 1024×768 resolution) is from 2003. The document Sarah wants us to print out and return is at the bottom of the page. The Keep It Simple Stupid manta reverberates in my head cavity.

I encourage you to post your feedback on the questionnaire here! Let’s discuss!