The London Assembly flags up their meetings via the london.gov.uk website, on Twitter and via press releases and ‘ops notes’ to media which pre-alert journalists who might go along or even help publicise the meetings.
The fire authority also tends to actively promote its meetings both to journalists and, via its website, to members of the public.
And although they’ve been deficient in the past, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime now uses its mailing list to publicise the dates of its MOPAC Challenge sessions, as well as putting the details online.
But Transport for London have always struck me as being a little less proactive in their efforts to ensure Londoners know when their board and public meetings are taking place.
It’s true that they have a meetings web page containing the dates of meetings and, seven days ahead, the papers for them but I’ve never seen them go out of their way to make anyone aware of its existence.
So with the help of our old friend the Freedom of Information Act I fired off a few requests to find out exactly how much effort TfL puts into promoting the meetings and ensuring Londoners realise they can go along and watch the Mayor and his board at work.
The responses are now in and it seems my suspicions were right, they aren’t doing very much at all.
TfL’s defence rests chiefly on the existence of the meetings web page but there’s no direct link to it from the home page and it’s not obvious how to find it.
If you know the board exists and realise it has public meetings you might speculatively click the ‘Corporate’ button, then wade through a long list of links before spotting the one for the meetings page.
But if you’re not already aware of the board or its meetings it’s entirely possible to spend hours on the TfL website without ever learning about the existence of either.
TfL tells me that it’s upcoming website redesign “will further improve the accessibility of this information” but the version currently being tested contains no direct link to the meetings page and doesn’t flag up the meetings on the pages most likely to be used by passengers.
How many times did TfL use its extensive social media presence – almost 150,000 people follow its main Twitter account – to publicise the most recent six board meetings?
Not even once: “No Tweets were issued to promote the Board meetings “
And it claims to be contractually barred from using its regular page in the Metro newspaper to publicise them, stating that the contract “limits content to information about service provision.”
TfL didn’t answer my query on whether the meetings are flagged up via their email mailing lists – it’s probably safe to assume this means it’s not using them either.
In fact, beyond its website, the only activity TfL can point to is the placing of printed public notices in the foyers of its Windsor House and Palestra offices where they’ll be seen by almost no-one outside the GLA circle.
TfL’s answers suggest it is doing nothing beyond the absolute legal minimum to inform Londoners about the meetings and almost nothing to encourage them along.
Are the board afraid that hordes of hungry Londoners will descend, storm the rope which separates the public seats from the board members and make off with the board’s tea and biscuits (provided by fare paying Londoners at a cost of £130.40 per meeting)?
I’ve attended enough public meetings to know that doing so is very much a minority interest and no number of Tweets, emails or other alerts will propel TfL board meetings to the top of the London attractions list.
But that doesn’t make it OK for TfL to do all it can to ensure as few people as possible know the meetings are taking place and hope that none bothers to turn up.
Which I’m afraid is very much what it looks like they’re doing.