That pushes me to refine the problem (and illustrates why I think it would be interesting to have a sensible debate about this).
The council surgery is very reactive. We are essentially getting involved when the problem has escalated to a level that the resident feels some extra clout is needed. I’d contrast this with Twitter when I will often intervene, or at least offer help, long before that stage is reached. If you operate from a basis whereby the earlier the intervention the better, then having fixed surgeries isn’t the best way to do it.
But when you start looking at moving the venue then you have a totally different style of surgery, which is probably going to be far more proactive and each to attract different people. The library is a fairly neutral venue, to which anyone can go. BAC is not, and the sort of people I’d meet there would be totally different. Asda offers a similar problem, in that while there’s a huge passing trade, it isn’t necessarily the right target audience! To give an example I often help – or hinder – the council’s community safety unit when they do a session there with the local SNT. What I often find is that I am having to offer generic crime prevention advice because the shoppers come from other boroughs and aren’t eligible for the services the council offers.
That’s not to say that these are bad places, but I think we’ve never thought about what we want to do. We just ‘do’ traditional surgeries in libraries and always have done. I don’t think we’ve ever had the discussion about whether we want to continue offering the current ‘last resort’ surgery, or whether we want to do something more proactive. And if we were to move towards the latter, then how should we do it, who should do and, most importantly, where would we do it. Surgeries only really help those in-the-know, and often they aren’t the ones who most need the help.