‘The city that thinks differently embraces evolution and champions change. In the dynamic, innovative town of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire the focus is strongly on ‘building,’ both in terms of new housing and community spirit. Which is why the city has no less than 45 parishes providing advice and support to residents at a local level, the largest of which is Shenley Brook-end and Tattenhoe Parish Council.
‘Ignorance breeds contempt’- in a city which is forever changing, it is essential to keep the community informed. Publications notifying residents of local services and issues were produced sporadically until 2002, when in-line with best practice, they became quarterly. The parish council aimed to achieve ‘Quality Parish Status’ and use the Parish News as a significant reporting mechanism, asking for comment and advising residents about planning issues and services available in the locality.
Parish Clerk, Chris Gallacher, tried a succession of distribution companies, none of which gave a good service or achieved the desired coverage. From a web search Chris contacted DOR-2-DOR and in 2003, following the first campaign, he saw an immediate improvement in coverage, community response and local reaction. The current distribution (approximately 10k), is picked up from the printers, sorted and delivered with 1 week’s notice. Geoff provides an operational breakdown and the round grows organically as the deliverers report back on new housing estates. Thus, the new residents feel included as they are introduced to local groups and services through the Parish News.
300 new houses were completed in 2006 and with at least 100 new homes being built annually in the locality; residents are rightly concerned about how they are affected by the rapid pace of development. An important role of the Parish News is to report on major planning issues and encourage feedback and contributions on housing and other residential concerns. People contact Chris with problems or ideas to improve local services. The Parish News raises the profile of all issues relevant to the community and gives voluntary organisations, (toddler groups, the police etc) free space in which to create awareness and attract response. Local businesses benefit from the advertisements they place, and the council supports local businesses.
Open and honest communication between the council and the community is a key objective; the newsletter contains photographs of the councillors and staff members. In the summer of 2006 an advertisement for local councillors placed in the News succeeded in filling vacant seats. The next step may be to produce the News bi-monthly and increase it to sixteen pages. The beauty of the publication is that so many different groups are benefiting from its existence; its effectiveness illustrated by the fact that many of the repeat advertisers have used the News for six years as a route to marketing.
Parish Clerk Chris Gallacher, said:
“We have a very good working relationship, we are very happy. DOR-2-DOR gives us a first class service and gets essential information to our target groups, in print, very well.”