Council s publications Scrutinised

Hackney Council is being challenged to adopt modern approaches to publishing information about the services provided to local residents.

The first meeting held by the Overview & Scrutiny Board to discuss the issues invited national experts to present to councillors. These included representatives from the London Assembly, Greater London Authority, the Centre for Public Scrutiny, and the think-tank Demos.

‘Open data’ is part of a national campaign for public organisations like councils and government departments to allow people to access their data, and use it freely to develop tools and improve transparency. Examples discussed included the new ‘Countdown’ application for mobile phones which uses data from Transport for London about where every bus is, and when it is due to arrive at a stop.

The Transparency Review coincides with the completion of another project by the Overview & Scrutiny function, a review of the ‘digital divide’. This considered the issues for residents who don’t have access to the internet, and the impact of more council services being provided online.

The review made a range of recommendations covering detailed areas such as how to minimise the impact on vulnerable residents of moving services online, on how the Council could make better use of social media and texting. Councillors also made practical suggestions about improving the reach of adult education courses in IT, and how the Council might improve its use of recycled staff computers.

Cllr Carole Williams, chair of the Community Safety & Social Inclusion Scrutiny Commission (who completed the review), said: “At a time of great change in how people access information, it is vitally important to ensure groups are not being left behind. Whilst it is attractive for public services to embrace social media and internet technologies, we must support residents who don’t have access to keep receiving the information and services they rely on."

To receive a copy of the report, or to get involved in the review of Transparency and Open Data, please contact the Overview & Scrutiny team on 020 8356 3341.