Rob Dale from Local Government Information Unit writes for Talk About Local about Public Notices.
Every decision a council takes has a major impact on the lives of local people so it is crucial that whenever it takes a significant decision about local budgets that affect local communities whether it is in a full council meeting or in a unheard of sub-committee it has got to be taken in the full glare of all the press and any of the public
said Eric Pickles in a recent press release.
How often though is “all the press” present in the town hall? From my personal experience, it is very rare.
In Brixton I am fortunate to be served by the Brixton Blog – who will sometimes be the only voice in the public gallery, tweeting away to their 8,036 followers (the South London Press has 7,882 follows and covers ALL of south london), engaging with residents and councillors and writing up the meeting ready for commuters the next morning.
Kaye Wiggins, the political corespondent for the blog, told me
it [is] clear that local people are genuinely interested in what is being discussed: a lot of our followers retweet the posts, and comment on what is being said. It opens the discussion to a much wider audience and, I hope, sends a clear message to councillors that they are being scrutinised and held to account by a wider community.
The case in Brixton can be found in a growing number of places across the UK – local communities being better served of local information through hyperlocal blogs than traditional print.
But the foundation from which these new forms of local reporting is developing is unsustainable.
Eric Pickles also wants to “unlock the Town Hall to social media and bloggers”. If this is to reach its potential, he needs to produce a framework that gives them opportunity of getting a slice of the £68m subsidy that local councils currently give to the local newspaper industry.
As I argue in my report Public notices: the case for radical reform, continuing to force authorities to publish public notices in local print is foolish.
At LGiU we are working on a project that explores new, simple and more effective ways for councils to distribute public notices – and we seek your involvement.
This project consists of three stages.
- LGiU has conducted a survey of local government to establish a feel for the current environment. The results of this survey are covered in this short report.
- For the next few months LGiU, working alongside GovDelivery, will engage with a small, varied group of local authorities to design, build and use new web-based tools to publish public notices on the authorities website, and also through local traditional media and newer hyperlocal, community sites.
- By putting together all our information and insights from stages 1 and 2, LGiU will actively seek to work with more parties to share best practice.
I’m looking to work with hyperlocal website editors and citizen-reporters. If you fancy getting involved in our work over the next few months, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @robandale.