Thursday, May 13, 2010

Castlereagh's online transparency stumbles – still not regularly publishing minutes on their website

Castlereagh Borough Council logo

After the fallout from the Iris Robinson revelations and questions about the Lock Keeper's Inn cafe earlier this year, Castlereagh Borough Council reversed its previous policy and started to publish its minutes online. I've blogged about Castlereagh's online presence quite a few times over the past year.

clip from Castlereagh Council website - the page of minutes - click for larger image

The council put out a press release on 18 March 2010 to explain:

“At the February meeting of Castlereagh Borough Council, a procedure was approved to allow all ratified minutes of Council, its Boards, Committees and Sub-Committees to be placed on the Council’s website. Officers were also asked to investigate the practices in other Councils regarding the publication of commercially sensitive information and ‘Staff in Committee’ items. It is anticipated that these issues will be ratified by full Council on 25 March 2010.”

They started well, and managed to publish PDFs for December 2009 and January 2010. And then it dried up. (Click on the image to see the larger screenshot.)

Back in March I blogged about the Socitm report surveying council websites that that was unenthusiastic about the Castlereagh site.

Their team of reviewers pointed to a “lack of customer focussed content” and that “it would be good to … have some online forms etc”. They “couldn't find an events calendar or councillor's allowances/expenses”. But perhaps most importantly, “No search facility found” … “Add a search facility”.

Looks like it will be a while before Castlereagh Borough Council truly embraces the internet and voluntarily publishes its business online.

(Strangely the page holding links to the minutes is entitled “Waste FAQs”!)

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