Headlines: April 8th, 2009

Ten councils are to share more than 600,000 pounds of Government funding to develop pilot schemes to make it easier for about a million people to get information about their services. The schemes include interactive consultation on planning applications and crime maps to a website for parents of disabled children.

The Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, who announced the funding, said that as well as seeing an improvement in access to services, people living in the pilot areas would also get more opportunities to influence local decision making because the councils would have to be transparent and accountable. Lessons from the pilots, including use of the Internet and new digital technology, will be shared with other local authorities.

The chosen pilot schemes include Birmingham City Council’s plans to develop an online community to allow local people to influence the planning and delivery of services, 18 online community notice boards in Gloucestershire, which will have space partners such as the police who will provide crime maps and Lancashire County Council’s proposal for tailored information on support for people affected by the economic downturn.

Hazel Blears said excellent services depended not only on providing resources but also on ensuring people could use them easily. “New technology provides an opportunity for councils to have a real dialogue with people in their area, “ she said and added, “These pilots will help local residents make better use of the services available to them, as well as holding their councils to account for the quality of those services.”