Friday, April 22, 2005

Local Councillors and their own websites

I saw Michael Cross's article about e-democracy projects. He has kindly referred to a project that I've been working on for a few years to give Councillors their own websites.

http://society.guardian.co.uk/e-public/story/0,,1463323,00.html

While I’m usually very happy with Michael Cross’s coverage of the work we’re all doing on Councillor sites, I think I his sub-editor may have slightly re-interpreted what I said about the need for legal change. (I’m guessing it was the sub-editor in this case).

Just for clarification purposes, Professor Coleman may not be keen on legal changes, but personally I’m broadly in favour of something being done. When I spoke to Michael, I said that I thought something should be done on this issue, but I did add that some people thought that the political rules had a unintended benefit of discouraging political grand-standing and that – in my view – political leadership is as important on this subject as any legal change.

Otherwise it's an excellent article - and if Michael sees this post, I hope he doesn't feel unfairly criticised here ;-)

I think that the rules on 'political communication' that infect large sections of the public sector are a convienient mask for a profoundly anti-democratic outlook in some sections of the civil service. This is a theme I will be returning to, so keep your eyes peeled....

2 comments:

Bob Piper said...

Paul,

I'm quite happy with the councillor info sites (if only we could paste pictures like I can do in my blog it would personalise the sites so much more) but I do feel the rules on political commenting are unfair on opposition groups.

Cllr Bob piper
Sandwell

Paulie said...

v2 of councillor.info will be released on the 12th May and it will allow you to put pictures on the site as you want to.

On the rules about political comment, I'd like to stress that we've tried to find ways through them - and that they are a matter of interpretation anyway.

I've head that some Councillors believe that the councillor.info project has imposed these rules. In reality, we found that the only way that we could persuade local Councils to give Councillors their own sites is to provide a mechanism to enforce the rules.

We'd have preferred a situation where the rules were much less rigid, but I'm not sure that local government in the UK is ready for this yet.

One point that I had made to me: Giving politicians a platform to air their views is not the same as giving them a political advantage. It sometimes is like supplying them with the rope needed to hang themselves ;-)