Headlines: May 6th, 2005

A survey of council websites to find out how well they promoted the county council elections produced a disappointing result. The survey was carried out by the Society of IT Management. The key questions the survey set out to answer was whether the election figured prominently on the home page, was it possible to find a list of councillors by ward, were procedures for postal voting clearly described and how the results will be published.Only four counties were rated as very good. Cumbria and Wiltshire did best of all with 8 questions answered, followed closely by Norfolk with 7 questions and Lincolnshire 6 questions. Another five counties were rated as satisfactory. Five councils had no information and another 20 were rated as poor.

‘By any measure county councils are an important part of the democratic framework and process in England, responsible as they are for major public services such as education and social care’ says Martin Greenwood, Programme manager for Socitm. ‘Generally, politicians and public policy makers are concerned about the lack of engagement in local government, and yet even given the restrictions of election time ‘purdah’, our survey shows that in many parts of the country a major opportunity for democratic engagement was missed.’