Area Forums are meetings held locally, often hosted by the local council. Forums are typically comprosed of local residents, councillors, senior representatives from the local authorities, the Police, Primary Care Trusts and other key local organisations, to debate key topics and answer residents' questions face-to-face.
The Area Forum workshops are normally run in the evenings and are chaired by a local councillor. Very often a Chief Officer also attends each meeting and ensures that the recommendations made are properly fed back into the council’s decision-making processes. Area Forums concentrate their conversations on the topics of particular concern to local communities in the area. The outcomes are reported to Area Forum members either on an individual basis or via an Area Forum newsletter, which is distributed to members after each meeting; the minutes from each meeting are normally available online. You do not have to be a member of an Area Forum to attend, but you are encouraged to join so that you can be regularly updated about meetings and developments that have occurred as a result of your input.
Area Forums are generally made up of a cross-section of the local community, normally divided by ward including:
- Local residents
- Local businesses
- Local amenity society and residents' association representatives
- Tenant management organisations
- Special interest groups
- Voluntary organizations
- Representatives of the police and health authorities
- Council buildings or community centres are normally used as the venue.
- Costs are incurred in staff time for planning and attending the meetings, as well as responding to participants.
Approximate time expense
- Area Forums are an ongoing process of engagement with the local community.
- Each Forum meets somewhere between every two months or every quarter.
- Can provide citizens with information on Council services and Council policies affecting the local area.
- The forums encourage openness and transparency around Council decisions.
- Discussions can be tailored to the concerns of local residents.
- Area forums provide a direct channel between elected representatives and the communities they represent.
- The opportunity for citizens to monitor feedback from the actions they raised during the meetings.
- Area Forums tend to be attended by the 'usual suspects' although many organisers try to attract young people in particular and residents from minority communities.
- Individual workshops may be dominated by one person or a particular viewpoint.
Area Forums have grown out of community meetings which have been held across the UK for decades. You can see examples of Council websites dedicated to the promotion of Area Forums below.