Citizens are always scrutinising local authorities to ensure they are offering the best possible value for money. This is similar to the way that shareholders demand the companies they invest in are run in a lean manner. The public want to know that the bodies who set and receive their taxes achieve efficiency in all areas from road maintenance to how they run local government council meetings.
In the UK, the Local Government Association found that only 48% of residents felt that their local council provided value for money. And with local and regional authorities making up a significant proportion of all public expenditure – 20% in France, for example – it is essential that these bodies prove their worth to citizens by utilising systems and solutions that improve efficiency.
In this article, you will find out how using meeting software improves decision-making and streamlines the council meeting process before, during and after the event, and how to choose the right software for your needs.
What is local government meeting software?
Local government meeting software is a platform that creates a paperless workflow for your meetings. It allows you to distribute meeting agendas and other important documents digitally ahead of the meeting, enables voting and facilitates decision-making during the event. It allows you to collate feedback, follow up on action points and deliver the minutes afterwards, all within a single platform.
Meeting software is usually a cloud-based solution that council members can access on laptops, smartphones or tablets so they can carry all the information they need with them, wherever they go. You can also use some local council meeting portals, such as iBabs, to run virtual or hybrid meetings, thanks to the integrated video conferencing tool.
Advantages of local government meeting software
More efficient processes
Meeting portals make the process of running a meeting much more efficient. You can create agendas in minutes, rather than taking hours or even days to do so. This means you free up time to devote to other tasks.
The process of sending the agenda is simplified, too. Just hit the ”send” button and you will have distributed it to all relevant parties. This means there is no need to task a team member with printing and envelope stuffing duties.
For the council members, having all the information they need at hand on an electronic device is more convenient than carrying reams of paper. It is also easier to find relevant passages to quote, for example, in a meeting. Rather than searching through the physical document to spot where you highlighted a passage, you can use the search function and jump straight to where you need to be.
Using meeting software removes your paper, printing and postage costs. With weighty documents, it can prove expensive to distribute them in such a manner, especially when there is an online alternative.
When someone suggests a change to the agenda or notices a mistake in the minutes, you would have to reprint and resend the documents with a paper-based process. With local government meeting software, you update the information in the cloud and that change pushes to all recipients in their portal.
Better for the environment
Another by-product of going paperless is that it is better for the environment, too. You waste less paper and help in the efforts to reduce the need for carbon emitting industrial processes used in the production of paper, which also contribute to deforestation.
Local government meeting software allows for easy and effective collaboration between council members. Because you all have access to the same document in the cloud, you can add annotations and comments, which others can reply to and take into account ahead of the meeting. This improves the levels of preparation for the meeting, which allows for more effective decision-making.
Reduced risk of leaks
When someone leaves paper council meeting documents in a public place, potentially confidential or embargoed information can be leaked. Using a meeting portal keeps these details password-protected. iBabs also utilises two-factor authentication (2FA) to make it even more difficult for an unauthorised person to access. In addition, the platform enables you to remotely wipe the content from a user’s profile for added peace of mind.
How to choose local government meeting software
Here are the most important features to look for.
In addition to 2FA and the ability to purge content, your ideal meeting portal should use advanced encryption technology to create robust security for your important documents and the discussions within the platform.
iBabs uses the same 256-bit AES encryption that is trusted by banks and departments of defence. We also base all of our servers in the European Union due to the strict online privacy rules within the union that ensure the security of your data.
When dealing with important local government business, you must ensure you use a safe and secure option, rather than simply relying on general file sharing apps, which do not conform to the same safety protocols as a dedicated meeting solution.
Ability to hold virtual meetings
Some jurisdictions allow for councils to hold online meetings, where some or all of the attendees are present remotely. This allows greater flexibility for your council members. If they are away or carrying out duties and cannot get to the venue in time, they can still perform their civic duties by attending the council meeting in a virtual format.
Online council meetings also reduce the amount of money spent on travel expenses and refreshments, as well as helping to reduce carbon emissions because fewer members will drive to attend in person. Your meeting software should provide the opportunity for members to join remotely and participate in debates, questions and votes.
This functionality allows you to choose the format of your meeting:
|Fully virtual||All attendees join the meeting remotely|
|Hybrid||Some attendees appear in person at the venue, and others join remotely|
|Fully in person||All attendees appear in person at the venue|
Having the ability to hold votes online through your meeting software is not only convenient, but it is useful for a robust record-keeping process, too.
Members use their devices to cast their votes on motions electronically. This is a more accurate and less time-consuming process than taking a show of hands or voting verbally and is less wasteful than taking a paper vote.
Online voting is recorded by your meeting software, making it simple to find evidence of the decision-making process should someone ask for it or query it in the future. This electronic footprint is a key element of your audit trail.
Cloud document management
Having the ability to manage meeting documents in the cloud is a much more efficient method of running a council meeting. Agendas and minutes can be created and distributed within minutes, and members can comment on them immediately, allowing you to adjust any issues.
This also eliminates the risk of councillors working on different versions of documents, as any changes occur instantly in each member’s portal. Editing takes seconds with software that offers this feature, rather than requiring you to make the changes, print new copies for each member and send them out.
This also allows for collaboration between members and for easy communication and follow-up on action points raised in previous meetings. You can track progress to ensure actions are carried out in a timely manner.
Your ideal software solution would offer you the capacity to use electronic signatures in order to verify decisions.
When it comes to the legal standing of e-signatures, the eIDAS Regulation states that, in the EU, “an electronic signature shall not be denied legal effect and admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings solely on the grounds that it is in an electronic form”. Not only are they legally binding, but using a qualified electronic signature (QES) is more trustworthy than a wet signature, thanks to the digital fingerprint needed to create the former.
Using online signatures for your council meeting decisions makes proving what happened and what was decided easy if there is ever a challenge in the future.
When integrating new solutions into your processes, you want to know that there is help available should you need it. Your perfect local government meeting software must provide assistance from a reliable support team so that you are not left without help when trying to run your meetings.
Quick tips for effective online council meetings
- Choose what works for your particular situation. Different jurisdictions have different rules, so make sure that your solution fits your needs and requirements.
- Test the tech before you use it for a meeting. Ensure it does exactly what you need it to do and that you understand how to achieve your goals.
- Train your stakeholders on how to use the platform, and extol its benefits. If they understand why they should use it and how to do so effectively, they are much more likely to use it to its full potential.
Should you live stream your local government meetings?
Many local government bodies stream their meetings to provide transparency to citizens and show them the democratic process in action.
How do you engage constituents at a city council meeting?
You can engage constituents by allowing questions at public meetings. This allows them to hold officials to account and raise issues that might not have otherwise been discussed.
Using software for local government council meetings is essential for efficiency, convenience and compliance with requirements for record-keeping. It makes life easier before the meeting, with quick and easy preparation and distribution of documents. During the meeting, councillors have all the latest information at their fingertips and can vote easily through the platform. After the event, you can send out minutes and receive amendments straight away, as well as ensuring follow-up actions are completed. iBabs’ meeting portal provides all of this in combination with 24/7 support and robust security standards. Request a free demo for your council today.