TWITTER and other social media will continue to be a key tool in discussing potential budget cuts with residents, Flintshire Council’s leader said.
Cllr Aaron Shotton said following on from the authority’s first Twitter debate on Monday, the microblogging website and other new media channels will remain key to garnering public opinion on how to press ahead with “unprecedented” budget cuts.
Cllr Shotton and council chief executive Colin Everett took to Twitter for a two-hour chat with residents to discuss where they think cuts should be made from the authority’s budget.
The Twitter takeover, which prompted dozens of responses, was dubbed the Big Budget Conversation by council bosses, as they search out views over potential cuts which could reach £18 million next year.
In a statement, Cllr Shotton said: “We are using our Twitter site as one of the communication channels in our Big Budget Conversation.
“People can also send us their views by filling in a form on our website and e-magazine.
“As part of the conversation, we included a live Twitter debate on Monday when the chief executive and myself were online for two hours to answer questions.
“The number of people who got in touch was low but this is understandable as it was the first time we had done it.
“More than 400 have however completed the questions and form online and people can continue to let us know their views.”
Tom Middlehurst, 78, who led Flintshire Council between 1996 and 1999, supported the authority's decision to embrace social media.
He said: “It is to be welcomed that residents are being consulted but the bottom line is the council must make a final decision.
“It’s a difficult task but ultimately there needs to be decisions made that are beneficial to the people of Flintshire.
"I’m confident the current council leader, Aaron Shotton, has his finger on the pulse.
“In my day, we had lots of consultancy meetings. It’s healthy and I applaud the council for going this way.”
The debate was sparked after the Leader revealed in July how a projected £12m figure could rise by up to 50 per cent if Welsh Government funding is slashed as predicted, placing threatened public services at even greater risk.
The £18m figure would be the biggest budget reduction the county has ever had to manage.
Cllr Shotton added: “All responses and comments from the public will be considered as we plan our next phase of the consultation for late autumn.
“We will definitely continue to use Twitter as part of any wider communication with the public.”
Flintshire Council deputy leader Cllr Bernie Attridge has admitted it was “inevitable” some services could be lost.
During this year, the authority has already slashed £2.5m from its wage bill and made £10m of internal efficiencies in order to secure frontline services.