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 regulations – applying for exemption

From 23 September 2020, all local council websites must be made accessible, unless the council can demonstrate that doing so would impose a disproportionate burden.

We believe that a lot of smaller parish and community councils would have grounds to apply for exemption for historical information on their websites – often local councils have minutes and agendas going back several years and it could be argued that converting all of these to accessible formats presents a disproportionate burden. However, if users need information to complete a task or access a service, even if it was published before 23 September 2018, you will need to provide it in an accessible format.

However, going forward local councils have no excuses not to present their documents and web pages in a way that is accessible to all. You can see the types of disabilities that should be considered when thinking about accessibility here Website Accessibility Dos and Don’t s – a pictorial guide.

To apply for exemption, a council must perform a disproportionate burden assessment. This should include

  • The size, resources and nature of the council
  • The estimated costs and benefits for the council in relation to the estimated benefits for persons with disabilities, taking into account the frequency and duration of use of the specific website

If the council determines that compliance would impose a disproportionate burden they must publish an accessibility statement. This must be in an accessible format and published on their website.

It must include the following:

  • An explanation of the parts of the content that are not accessible and reasons why
  • Where appropriate, a description of any accessible alternatives provided
  • A link to your contact form so that the user can request details of the information excluded or notify the council of any failure to comply
  • A link to the enforcement procedure that the user can access in the event of an unsatisfactory response to the notification or the request.

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. You can read about applying for exemption here: Website accessibility regulations – applying for exemption

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 promote your Facebook page

Continuing our guides on setting up and using Facebook to engage with your community. This article covers how to get people to like and follow your Facebook page for your town, parish or community council.

  • It’s a good idea to create a username for your page. You’re username will mean that you get a facebook address like this: https://www.facebook.com/[mylocalcoucnilpage]. This will be easier to share with people who you want to visit your page and publicise on your page. To create a username, click the ‘See more‘ link on the left of your Facebook page (just under where your council name appears), then select About from the list that appears when you have clicked. You can change the page username by clicking on the link next to Username (will probably be @username the default). This will launch a new window where you can add your username. It will need to be unique to Facebook – as you type it in, any errors will appear in red. Once Facebook is happy with your username you will see a green tick at the right of the window. Once you have added it, click the ‘Create Username’ button to save your changes. If you are new to Facebook and haven’t added a phone number to your main account, you may get an error message when doing this. To fix it, simply add your phone number to your main account and it should work perfectly.

  • Invite all your Facebook friends to like your new page.

  • Publish posts and invite your local community to like the posts. That way their friends and other people in your community will see you posts and may well like your page too.

  • Publicise your new page in your minutes, newsletters or other information you send out to your local community.
  • Put a poster on your noticeboard with the address of your Facebook page.

  • Use and ‘email signature‘ that includes the address of your Facebook page. An email signature is information that you set up to appear at the end of email messages you send. It can include contact information. For how to to set these up just Google ‘set up email signature’ and the name of the email program that you use eg gmail.

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.

 

 

GDPR-compliant Contact Forms

GDPR states that you need to inform users about what information you are collecting about them, how long you intend to store it and what you intend to use it for at the point of collecting the information.

This means that at the top of your contact form or contact us page you need to have a prominent link to your privacy policy and a statement saying that you are collecting personal information, and by submitting the form or sending you an email, users are agreeing to this. You should also include a link to your privacy policy so that your users can find further information.

If you want to be extra careful, you can have a check box on your form that users must check to confirm that they have read and accept your privacy statement. It is possible to add one of these check boxes that will not allow the user to submit the form until the box has been checked.

Social Media: is it right for my Council?

If your council isn’t currently using social media, now is the time to consider why that is. These days, online presence is everything, and it is important to interact with your residents in a variety of ways. It is a particularly good way to connect with younger members of your community. Here’s our summary of the main social media platforms, and things you should think about before deciding to sign up:

Facebook

Interacting with your residents on Facebook gives you the opportunity to share content, advice and opinions, entering into a conversation with people who are interested in your work. You should make sure that your posts are interesting and original, and that you respond to any communication in a timely and professional manner, as it will be seen by a wider audience. Facebook has the oldest demographic of the main social media networks and the fastest growing sign-ups are from the over 50s.

Twitter

Share short 140-character messages and links with followers, enabling you to send (and receive!) instant information about what’s happening in your area, or anything else you think your residents may be interested in. Twitter is a very good way to get out short snippets of information to your residents. You can connect with, and follow, other local councils and industry bodies such as NALC to see what is going on in the wider community. It can also be an invaluable resource for finding information about funding or issues affecting your local area.

LinkedIn

This is a business networking site that is growing extremely quickly. It is mostly used for recruiting/finding work and connecting with others. You can get by simply by creating a profile, but to really use it, you need to regularly update your status and participate in discussion groups.

Instagram

This is an image-driven social network. If you have lots of pictures of your area that you would like to share with a wider audience and would like your parishioners to be able to share their pictures to your space it is a good network to use.

I Want To Give It A Go – What’s Next?

If you’re a complete beginner in the world of social media, it can be a bit daunting to know where to begin. We will be writing a series of guides on how to set up and effectively use each of the social media platforms, so watch this space…

 

Making your website GDPR cookie compliant

What is a cookie

A cookie is a small text file that is downloaded onto ‘terminal equipment’ (eg a computer or smartphone) when the user accesses a website. It allows the website to recognise that user’s device and store some information about the user’s preferences or past actions. Cookies are used by virtually all modern websites.

Cookie consent

Users must be given the option to consent or refuse to accept cookies. Cookies must be deactivated until that consent is given. The exception is for cookies considered Strictly Necessary, such as cookies that are set when a user logs into a site  and that are required to ‘remember’ this fact.

The only way to fully comply with the new GDPR restrictions on cookies is to set up a ‘granular’ cookie consent bar. This enables users to refuse certain types of cookie – for example analytics cookies or marketing cookies.

Your cookie policy needs to be up to date.

GDPR demands that specific document is provided, detailing which cookies are set by your site, and what they do.

Our GDPR-compliant cookie consent package includes three key components:

  • GDPR compliant cookie consent function to allow the visitor to choose which types of cookies are set, in compliance with GDPR regulations.
  • Custom Privacy Policy page including content compliant with GDPR legislation.
  • SSL certificate installed and configured for your site.

Read about our GDPR-compliant packages here