Monday, 23 March 2015

Democracy Club

I manage the Digital Services Team for a council in the South of England, I’m also Vice-Chair of the LocalGov Digital Steering Group, a network of digital practitioners working in councils across the country.

It’s the nature of the mixture of local and national administration that sometime geographical boundaries don’t match up. Take Berkshire for example. There are eight parliamentary constituencies and six unitary authorities, but only two of the former are administered by a single one of the latter.

Confused? Voters probably are too.

The local authority that voters pay their council tax to might not be the one that administers polling for their parliamentary seat. For example, if you live in the parliamentary constituency of Windsor, you’ll have to visit the websites of either Bracknell Forest Council, Slough Borough Council or the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to find the location of your polling station.

This is where the work Democracy Club is doing comes in. By embedding functionality that uses national data in every council website, voters don’t have to know which council website to go to because the data crosses administrative borders.

In lots of cases the council boundary does match the parliamentary constituency, but there are still benefits here too. Hundreds of councils don’t have to produce or purchase this functionality independently, so there’s a cost saving to taxpayers. It also frees the information from the confines of a council website. Hyperlocal and national websites can use it too, or people might want to visit the Democracy Club website itself.

What Democracy Club are doing fits in with the wider idea of local government as a service, and the “Think. Do. Share” ethos, that LocalGov Digital promote. Our Local Democracy Bytes workstream is all about digital and local democracy, whilst our LocalGov Digital Makers promotes collaborative creation.

For my own part, and on the topic of democracy, here’s the code to create a results board utilising the Modern.Gov API, that can be used by councils at the election count and for displaying a simple view of results online. If you have any more projects, it’d be great if you could add them to the LocalGov Digital platform Pipeline that we designed to kick-start collaboration in local government.

I’ve seen much talk of a need for re-usable components, for civic and council websites, so it’s great to see that Democracy Club, along with LocalGov Digital, are getting on developing them and when it comes to the democratic process, Democracy Club are thinking, doing and sharing.
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.