Email accounts explained

With the advent of GDPR, town, community and parish Councillors and the clerk should no longer use personal email account for council business.

There are two main types of accounts: free web-based emails such as hotmail or gmail and hosted email accounts where the email address uses your domain name eg clerk@yourdomain.org.uk.

With hosted accounts there are 2 types: POP and IMAP and the main difference between these is that with IMAP, messages are stored on the server and are accessible from anywhere and with POP accounts messages are downloaded to the user’s computer.

Hosted Accounts

IMAP accounts

Pros

  • Messages are stored on the server
  • You can access your email from any computer or device that is connected to the internet
  • You don’t need to be connected to the internet to view received messages or compose new messages, but you need to be connected to send or receive messages
  • You can use either an internet browser or an email program such as Microsoft Outlook or Thunderbird to access your emails
  • The council has control over all email accounts and can request the removal of an account and deletion of messages if a Councillor or clerk leaves the council
  • Your email address uses your website domain name – giving a more professional appearance

Cons

  • You will need to pay to have the accounts set up and maintained
  • Most companies will charge extra for storage space for the email messages

POP accounts

Pros

  • Messages are downloaded to the your computer
  • You need a program such as Microsoft Outlook or Thunderbird to access your emails
  • You don’t need to be connected to the internet to view received messages or compose new messages, but you need to be connected to send or receive
  • The council can request that an account be removed if a Councillor or clerk leaves the council, and that account will no longer work, although messages already downloaded will remain on the user’s computer (see Cons below)
  • Your email address uses your website domain name – giving a more professional appearance

Cons

  • You will need to pay to have the accounts set up and maintained
  • You can only access the messages on the computer that the messages have been downloaded to
  • If you request that an account be removed, messages that have already been downloaded will remain on the user’s computer unless they delete them

Free web-based accounts

Pros

  • You can access your emails from anywhere connected to the internet
  • It’s a free service

Cons

Guide to writing documents that are accessible

Write using simple language

Use simple language as often as is possible. This makes your document accessible to people with cognitive impairments or learning disabilities.

Most people would prefer to read documents that use simple language as it means they can quickly understand the information.

If you need to use technical terms or acronyms, explain what the mean the first time you use them.

Keep your documents simple

  • Use short sentences and paragraphs
  • Use a sans serif font like Arial or Helvetica. Make the minimum size 12pt.
  • Avoid using ‘all capitals’ text or italics
  • Left align your text, don’t justify text
  • Use centred text sparingly and only where you want it to stand out such as the main heading
  • Avoid underlining unless for links
  • Use single columns if possible, rather than a more complicated layout
  • Use tables sparingly – only for data and avoid splitting or merging cells
  • Don’t use colour alone to get across the meaning
  • If you use images, think about how a user with visual impairment will be able to access the information
    • by stating the same information in the text
    • by giving the image an ‘alt text’ (alternative text) tag
  • Avoid footnotes if possible

Structure the document

Use bullet points, numbered lists and subheads to break up the document.

Always mark up subheadings with styles – you can create a heirarchy of headings to structure your document, using heading 1, heading 2, heading 3 etc.


Ideally publish web pages rather than PDF files

The Government guidelines state that wherever possible, information should be published as an HTML web page, rather than as a PDF file.

The reason is that information is harder to find, use and maintain in a PDF file and is more difficult to make PDF files accessible. You can read here about why content should be published in HTML and not PDF



More complex documents

There’s lots of information about how to make more complex Microsoft Office documents accessible on the Accessible Digital Office Document (ADOD) Project website.

GDPR compliant websites

GDPR for Town & Parish Council Websites

Frequently Asked Questions

We’re still getting lots of question from our town and parish council customers about how to make their websites GDPR compliant, so we’ve answered some of the most common questions below:

How does your website use and process personal information?

GDPR compliant privacy policy

GDPR and website security

GDPR and website cookies

GDPR and personal email accounts – Is it okay to use personal email for parish council business under GDPR?

Making your contact form GDPR compliant

How we can help

 

How does your website use and process personal information?

Your website collects personal data in a number of ways:

  • When you request information from users, such as if they fill in any form on your site to contact you or to subscribe to your newsletter
  • When users visit or log into your site cookies can be set on their computer
  • If you have any members areas/bulletin boards or the option for users to add comments

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GDPR compliant privacy policy

Your website should include the privacy policy for your town or parish council website, covering how you process information both on the website and in your general dealings. Your privacy policy should cover:

  • Do you collect data?
  • If so, why?
  • How do you use it?
  • Is it secure?
  • Do you share it with anyone?

All our websites include a built-in privacy policy page ready for you to add your policy to. This links into your site footer, so is visible from ever page on your website.

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GDPR and website security

You are responsible for the security of your user’s data if they fill out a form on your website, for example. Your website should have a SSL certificate installed so that the connection between the server and the user is encrypted, and information cannot be intercepted.

In addition all sites that do not have an SSL certificate installed are now being marked as ‘insecure’ by the major web browsers, so having an SSL certificate is now becoming essential for all websites.

All our websites include an SSL certificate set up and configured, as standard. You can read about the features we offer on our websites.

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GDPR and website cookies

If your website sets cookies (as nearly all websites do), you must inform the user that cookies are set and allow them to opt out. This is done using a cookie consent bar.

How can you tell if your website sets cookies?

Virtually all modern websites set cookies. If you log into your website to make updates, then a cookie is set to ‘remember’ that you have logged in. The exception is older style websites built using html, although some of these sites set cookies too.

All our websites come with a cookie consent bar as standard.

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GDPR and personal email accounts

If your parish clerk or your Councillors use personal email accounts you should consider setting up dedicated town or parish council ones. This means that if someone were to leave the council, that account could be deleted so that any personal information about individual parishioners it contains would be erased.

We can set up email accounts using your domain name. We offer both POP (where messages are stored on the user’s computer) and IMAP (where messages are stored on our server) accounts.
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Making your contact form GDPR compliant

GDPR states that you must inform the user that you are collecting data about them at the point of data collection. In practice this means that you contact form and any sign-up form should have a link to your privacy policy and a checkbox that users must click to confirm they accept.

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How can we help?

At Town and Parish Council Websites we are committed to providing fully GDPR compliant websites for local councils.

Please get in touch if you would like further information or fill out our quote form for us to provide you with a free, no-obligation quote.

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Website Accessibility Dos and Don’t s – a pictorial guide

Click on the images for a larger version

 

What the posters say

Designing for users on the autistic spectrum

Do

  • use simple colours
  • write in plain English
  • use simple sentences and bullets
  • make buttons descriptive – for example, Attach files
  • build simple and consistent layouts

Don’t

  • use bright contrasting colours
  • use figures of speech and idioms
  • create a wall of text
  • make buttons vague and unpredictable – for example, Click here
  • build complex and cluttered layouts

 

Designing for users of screen readers

Do

  • describe images and provide transcripts for video
  • follow a linear, logical layout
  • structure content using HTML5
  • build for keyboard use only
  • write descriptive links and heading – for example, Contact us

Don’t

  • only show information in an image or video
  • spread content all over a page
  • rely on text size and placement for structure
  • force mouse or screen use
  • write uninformative links and heading – for example, Click here

Designing for users with low vision

Do

  • use good contrasts and a readable font size
  • publish all information on web pages (HTML)
  • use a combination of colour, shapes and text
  • follow a linear, logical layout -and ensure text flows and is visible when text is magnified to 200%
  • put buttons and notifications in context

Don’t

  • use low colour contrasts and small font size
  • bury information in downloads
  • only use colour to convey meaning
  • spread content all over a page -and force user to scroll horizontally when text is magnified to 200%
  • separate actions from their context

 

Designing for users with physical or motor disabilities

Do

  • make large clickable actions
  • give form fields space
  • design for keyboard or speech only use
  • design with mobile and touch screen in mind
  • provide shortcuts

Don’t

  • demand precision
  • bunch interactions together
  • make dynamic content that requires a lot of mouse movement
  • have short time out windows
  • tire users with lots of typing and scrolling

Designing for users who are D/deaf or hard of hearing

Do

  • write in plain English
  • use subtitles or provide transcripts for video
  • use a linear, logical layout
  • break up content with sub-headings, images and videos
  • let users ask for their preferred communication support when booking appointments

Don’t

  • use complicated words or figures of speech
  • put content in audio or video only
  • make complex layouts and menus
  • make users read long blocks of content
  • don’t make telephone the only means of contact for users

Designing for users with dyslexia

Do

  • use images and diagrams to support text
  • align text to the left and keep a consistent layout
  • consider producing materials in other formats (for example, audio and video)
  • keep content short, clear and simple
  • let users change the contrast between background and text

Don’t

  • use large blocks of heavy text
  • underline words, use italics or write capitals
  • force users to remember things from previous pages – give reminders and prompts
  • rely on accurate spelling – use autocorrect or provide suggestions
  • put too much information in one place

 

Announcing our 100th Customer!

We are delighted to welcome our 100th customer – Little Gaddesden Parish Council. They are the winner of a free website. We are currently working on the site and will post a link as soon as it’s live.

The parish clerk commented: “Wow, we’ve hit the jackpot, absolutely brilliant our Councillors will be really pleased because they are constantly having to juggle expenditure and cannot always afford what they would like to do. We have an outdoor Gym equipment project that we can go ahead with now, so the good news is you are helping to keep the residents here fit and well!”

We look forward to working with them.

2019 Transparency Code deadlines

Information to be published annually

The deadline for publishing the following information is 1 July 2019 (for information relating to the tax year 2018/2019).

  1. All items of expenditure above £100
  2. End of year accounts
  3. Annual governance statement
  4. Internal audit report
  5. List of Councillor or member responsibilities
  6. The details of public land and building assets

Information to be published more frequently than annually

  1. Draft minutes from all formal meetings (i.e. full council or board, committee and sub-committee meetings) not later than one month after the meeting has taken place. These minutes should be signed either at the meeting they were taken or at the next meeting
  2. Smaller authorities should also publish meeting agendas, which are as full and informative as possible, and associated meeting papers not later than three clear days before the meeting to which they relate is taking place

The data and information must be published on a website which is publicly accessible and free of charge.

 

Website Accessibility – what is it and why does it matter?

Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. More specifically, people can:

  • perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web
  • contribute to the Web

As a local town, parish or community council, it is especially important that your website does not discriminate against users with disabilities. From 23 September 2020 (for existing websites) or 23 September 2019 (for new websites) there is a legal requirement for all public sector bodies to comply with the accessibility requirement, unless doing so would impose a disproportionate burden (more on that next month)

Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including:

  • auditory
  • cognitive
  • neurological
  • physical
  • speech
  • visual

Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities, for example:

  • people using mobile phones, smart watches, smart TVs, and other devices with small screens, different input modes, etc.
  • older people with changing abilities due to ageing
  • people with “temporary disabilities” such as a broken arm or lost glasses
  • people with “situational limitations” such as in bright sunlight or in an environment where they cannot listen to audio
  • people using a slow Internet connection, or who have limited or expensive bandwidth

We’ll be publishing a series of articles about how to make your website accessible, so watch this space.

How to optimise your Facebook page

This follows on from our easy guide to setting up your Faceboook page.

In this article we’ll be covering how to add a logo and cover picture, a short description and invite friends to like you page. We’ve highlighted and numbered the relevant parts of the page in the diagram above.

  1. Add a logo. If you hover your mouse over the circle with a ‘B’ in it at the top left of the screen, a black semi-circle will appear over the B, with the word Update. Click Update and select ‘Upload Photo‘ from the options that appear. This will launch a File Upload window where you can select your logo from the files on your computer. Double-click an image to upload. The next screen will give you the option to reposition the image so that it fits into the circular logo shape. Once you are happy, click Save.
  2. Add a cover picture. Even if you don’t have a logo, it’s a really good idea to at least upload a cover picture so that people know they have reached the right page, which will make them more likely to engage and follow you. Click the Add a Cover button and then select Upload photo/video. As in the instructions in number 1 choose the picture from your computer and upload it to the site. Again, click Save to save your changes.
  3. You should then add a short description. Just a few words to introduce your council. Click the Add a short description box, then enter your description in the relevant box in the window that is launched. Once you are happy with it, click the Save and Continue button.
  4. Invite friends and the local community to like your page. You’ll see a list of your friends on the right of the screen. Next to each one is an Invite button. Simply click the button and an invitation will be automatically sent. If there is someone in particular you want to invite who you can’t see on the list you can search for them by putting their name in the ‘Search for friends to invite‘ box.
  5. Write your first post. Click in the box where it says ‘Write a post‘, and write something for your audience. This will appear in the news feed of all your followers. You can add photos to your post and/or set up a link back to your website. When you are happy with your post, click the Publish button at the bottom right of the screen.

    To add a photo, just click the Photo/Video button below the box where you write your content and upload a photo, as detailed in point 1 above.

    To add a link, simply browse to the page you want to link to and copy the URL and paste it into your post. The URL is the link address that shows in the top of your browser – it begins https://…. . To copy and paste, just right-click on the address and select Copy from the drop-down menu. To paste it, right-click in your Facebook post and select Paste from the drop down menu.

Personal email accounts and GDPR

We often get asked the question: should the clerk or Councillors be using their personal email accounts for council business?

While this wasn’t a problem in the past, the new GDPR regulations mean that it isn’t advisable. There are 2 main reasons for this – under GDPR, people have:

  • The right to access all information that you hold about them
  • The right to be forgotten (ie have all information you hold about them erased)

Fulfilling both of these obligations can be difficult when the clerk or Councillors may have information buried within their personal communications. Also, if the clerk or a Councillor has left the council it will be difficult and time-consuming to retrieve or delete all the information shared as part of council business.

There are 2 ways of solving this problem:

  • Get your Councillors to set up dedicated council email accounts using a free online email such as hotmail. When a Councillor leaves the council, they can simply delete the account and all the content.
  • Set up POP or IMAP accounts for your Councillors. Your web hosting company will be able to do this for you, but there will most likely be a charge.

We will be going into more detail about different types of email accounts later.

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How to set up a Facebook Page

First of all you will need your own Facebook account. If you don’t already have one, you can go here and register: www.facebook.com/r.php

Once you are logged into your account, go here to create your page https://www.facebook.com/pages/creation

On the next screen you will have the option to set up your page as a ‘Business or Brand’ or as a ‘Community or Public Figure’ – the community option is best for local councils.

You will then be asked to give your page a name – (the best option here is the name of your Town, Parish or Community Council) and a category (there isn’t a category for local council, so we’d recommend choosing ‘Government Organisation’). When you have done this, click the ‘Continue’ button.

The next screen will give you the option to upload a profile picture if you have one. Don’t worry if you don’t, you can just click the ‘Skip’ button and upload one later. If you don’t have a logo, you can use a picture of something that represents your community, such as your village sign.

Following that, you will be given the option to upload a cover picture. This will show in a banner shape across the top of your page and should be at least 400 pixels wide. Don’t worry if you don’t know how big your picture is, Facebook will check for you and give you a message if it isn’t big enough. Once you’ve uploaded it, you will be able to click and drag it to position the picture in the allotted space.

So that’s it. You will then be given the option to invite your Facebook friends to like the page. Click on the ‘Invite’ button next to the ones you would like to send a message inviting them to like the page.

Next week we’ll publish a guide to optimising your Facebook page, so follow us on Facebook to see updates.