Researchers based at Napier University have published a fascinating study into the online activity of Scottish Community Councils recently.
It found that just 13% of community councils have up-to-date planning information on their website.
The 2014 report, produced by Peter Cruikshank and Bruce Ryan, which you can download from here, builds upon a similar study that they undertook in 2012. This means that in this latest report the pair have also been able to look at trends.
Before we dip further into the key findings, we’re incredibly grateful to Peter and Bruce for agreeing to share some of the data that underpins the study – that is the web addresses, Facebook and Twitter account details of every community council in Scotland that has an online presence.
There are potentially 1370 community councils in Scotland, so this table is huge. To make it more manageable, you can use the search box at the top right of the table below to search for the name of the community council, place, or local authority area that your community council is in, to help you find details quickly.
You should also note that you can scroll the table to see the Facebook and Twitter details of each community council if it is known.
[table id=1 /]
If there is no information for your local community council, then this could be for a number of reasons.
Firstly, Peter and Bruce found that 15% or 211 community councils in Scotland were found not to exist. Community Councils are voluntary bodies, so even though they can play a vital role in the planning system as statutory consultees, if an insufficient number of people are able, or willing, to volunteer their time in an area to operate a community council, then it will cease to exist.
Secondly, a further 503 that were found to be active, were not online at all. That’s why more than half, or 52%, of Scottish Community Council’s don’t have any details in the table above.
The research also found that even where community councils had a web presence of some kind, only 22% had updated it recently. Linked to this they also found evidence that community councils’ were struggling to sustain their websites.
Although 9% of community councils were newly online since their first study in 2012, almost the same number had ceased updating an existing website over that period. Thus overall, the researchers found little evidence that community councils in Scotland were managing to make much progress with digital tools.
Peter and Bruce also highlight that: “73 presences (11% of presences) do not provide ways for citizens to contact their Community Councillors. Only 12% use social media to host online discussion and opinion-gathering. Community councils’ main role is to represent their communities in the local planning process. Despite this, only 13% had any information on this core area – however this is an improvement on 2012.”
At Planning Democracy we’re only too well aware of the pressures that community councils are under and the fantastic work that many community councillors undertake on behalf of their local communities.
Nevertheless, we’d be interested to hear whether there’s more that Planning Democracy can do to support community councils to publish more local planning information and engage with local residents online around planning issues.
If you have case-studies of best practice we’d be interested in hearing from you, or if you can identify any barriers that make it hard for community councils to get timely planning info onto their websites, please do let us know too. Do you think, for example, that there’s more that Local Authorities could and should do?
You can add your thoughts in the comments below, or if you’d prefer to send us a private comment you can get in touch with us using this form.
Lastly, if you find the table above awkward to view then you can also view this data in a Google Spreadsheet here.
Given that this info, is likely to go out of date reasonably quickly, if you have any corrections, additions or amendments to make to this data, please let us know.
Photo credit: Rosaura Ochoa | CC | https://flic.kr/p/5XNfPs