|No council websites were harmed in the making of this post.|
The idea here is to have separate websites for local democracy. At the moment council democracy stuff is incorporated into websites that are mainly designed to support and promote services. Creating separate sites would bring all the democracy stuff – committee information, councillor details, scrutiny and elections out of the shadows of all that service stuff and into the light!
Parliament has its own separate ‘democracy site’. So does the National Assembly for Wales. So why not local government?
Democracy stuff can usually be found in a corner of the council website under ‘Council’ or ‘Your Council’. Website design rests heavily on ‘top tasks’ and responding to customer needs – it’s job vacancies, rubbish collection details and school term dates that get prominence because those are the things that people look for.
Democracy matters – it needs greater visibility.
Another problem is that the way we interact as customers of services is different to how we might interact as citizens with a local democratic process. A local democracy site needs to tell me about the things I’m entitled to know – not just the things I know that I want or the things the council wants me to consume.
My argument is that local democracy presents a distinct design challenge – one that can only be properly addressed away from the frameworks of local government ‘service’ websites. Having separate sites should open up a market for design and, who knows, even lead to open source solutions that everyone can use.
In areas where there are multi tier councils you should only need one site for the local districts and county councils. Less need for mergers perhaps?
And these local democracy websites need not just be about local government – they could provide a space for citizen bloggers and hyperlocals - and a focus for annual democracy plans. They could provide a single focus for a range of accountability mechanisms (health, Police and Crime commissioners etc etc).
As a 'user' of democracy I'd like to have everything in one place. Wouldn't you.