Skip to main content
Socitm better connected logo

Council business

Find out about my councillor - 2015

Why important

Local authorities are first and foremost democratic bodies and so the information and services that they offer relating to local democracy are of vital importance.

A council is a body of democratic representation and not just a service provider. It is essential to get it right when providing information about who the councillors are and which political party is in control: they must be easy to find. Failures here are not just annoying; they are undemocratic.

Overview

Despite its importance in a democratic body, information about councillors and political control is mixed. Overall, only 46% of sites met our standard, significantly lower than the 62% reported last year when the scope of the task was broader. 41% of sites failed specifically because names and parties of local councillors could not be found (designated by our survey for the first time as an essential question) On the whole, democracy sections have failed to evolve significantly in the last few years. There are still sites where it is not possible to find out who your local councillor is, unless you know the name of the ward for that councillor. On most where this is the case, no advice is given for finding out which ward you are in. It is also often – in fact, more often than not – difficult to find a simple clear statement of which political party is in control of the council.

Coverage

All councils (408 councils in all).

Primary route for this task

We assessed this task primarily using the search via Google.

Headline results

46%

Achieved standard

The standard
  • At least 5 questions from 7 answered 'Yes'
  • Question Q85 must be answered 'Yes'
  • Question Q91 must be 'No' (content must not be out of date)
  • Promotion of task rated satisfactory or very good
  • Customer journey rated satisfactory or very good

How effectively is this council promoting this as a task?

Overall, how do you rate the journey plus task completion?

Key
  • Very good
  • Satisfactory
  • Poor
  • No information

Questions

NB Question highlighted in green is an ‘essential question’ that must be answered correctly for the council to meet the standard for this task

Percentage answered correctly
Questions to be answered 'Yes'
Q84 Does a site search return the correct result listed in the first five results? 88%
Q85 Can I find out name and party of councillors for my ward using street or postcode search? 57%
Q86 Can I find out the current political control of the council? 29%
Q87 Does a Google search lead me to the task? 93%
Q88 Does the service landing page provide a prominent link that goes directly to this task? 88%
Q89 Does the home page lead me directly to the task? 89%
Q90 Is there an entry in the A to Z index? 77%
Out of date information, answered 'No'
Q91 Did you come across any out-of-date information about this task? 98%
How effectively is this council promoting this as a task? Average score (0-3)
Q92 How effectively is this council promoting this as a task? 2.2
Overall, how do you rate the journey plus task completion? Average score (0-3)
Q93 Overall, how do you rate the journey plus task completion? 1.7

Task report

Good practice

Finding the task

  • Find the task by entering council name’ councillors into Google (or other search engine).
  • Link to the task clearly from the home page using the word ‘Councillors’ and ideally ‘Find my councillor’ or similar, not just ‘Council and democracy’ or ‘My council’.
  • Make sure any internal search for councillor or councillors returns the best result at the top, or highlighted.
  • If you have a postcode look-up service, make sure it is present on the main councillors page and not just the home page or elsewhere (e.g. Warwick DC is a good example).
  • Make the task prominent on the home page, not below the fold or buried in a long task list: democracy is central to each council’s role.
  • Place information about political control of the council on the democracy home page and/or the main councillors page.

Completing the task

  • On information pages for individual councillors, include a variety of contact options and crosslinks to all relevant information, not just contact details but also attendance records, if available, and to details such as allowances and expenses.
  • Provide clear information about the council’s structure and control which is easy to find from the democracy home page.
  • Make it explicit which political party is in control without the visitor having to count the seats or otherwise deduce the information.
  • List clearly portfolio holders, i.e. the councillors who lead on specific issues, including committee chairs, rather than making people work out who they are from committee information.

Poor practice

  • A generic link to a ‘council and democracy’ section is all that is provided; this is not enough.
  • The site offers few ways to find your councillor other than ward maps or long lists. It is vital that this essential democratic task is made as easy as possible, and this is best done by relying on address or postcode, which are the only pieces of information you can guarantee that every resident will know.
  • Terminology can be a barrier: words like ‘democracy’ or ‘local democracy’ are not as straightforward as more descriptive terms such as ‘your councillor’, or ‘attending council meetings.’

Reviewer's tip

Why do those councils who have implemented ModernGov not use the postcode look-up facility it offers? It is such an obvious thing to include! But I have now experienced ModernGov implementations in two councils at first hand and understand better why this is probably the case. In these councils the setting up and day-to-day administration of ModernGov is controlled by the democratic services manager (understandable) and the web manager seems to have little control or say in the matter (or has not tried to bring influence to bear). I suspect this may be the root cause of noninclusion of the postcode look-up. The democratic services team is, I should say, thinking ‘councillor’ rather than ‘customer’.

I suspect a similar circumstance is the root cause of the continuing lamentable lack of clear statements of political control, but here I think the web manager can bring more influence to bear, but doesn’t.

Sites that we recommend

Braintree DC

Ticks all the boxes; effective councillor landing page offers postcode look-up and crystal clear statement of political control.

Chichester DC

This is the bee’s knees! I doubt this task can be bettered by another council. It’s bloomin’ brilliant!

King’s Lynn & West Norfolk BC

Very good council and democracy section. Easy to navigate and engaging content. Really nice presentation of the political control of the council.

Salford City

Really nice page from the search result which answered all of my questions. So simple and very effective.

Uttlesford DC

Good statement of political control on councillors landing page, clear and unambiguous. Congratulations! Directed to use ‘My Uttlesford’ to conduct postcode look-up for councillor details – good use of online resource here too. It’s amazing how few councils remember to utilise such a resource for this purpose. So, well done, Uttlesford!

Wandsworth

Excellent and easy to find.

Wyre BC

This is a very good example of ‘Find your local councillor’ journey. It is well signposted across the site and so easy to find. It doesn’t have duplicate and confusing pages. It clearly shows the political control on the main councillor page. And it links you to different ways to find your councillor including the postcode search. Well done!

 

Comments

Post a comment (Login required)