I experienced a sense of déjà vu when I browsed across to the minutes section of Castlereagh Borough Council’s website.
It was only in the aftermath of the Iris Robinson / Lock Keeper’s Inn cafe revelations this time last year that Castlereagh reversed its previous policy and started to publish its minutes online. I’ve blogged over on Alan in Belfast about Castlereagh’s online presence quite a few times over the past years. The council put out a press release on 18 March 2010 to explain:
At the February meeting of Castlereagh Borough Council, a procedure was approved to allow all ratified minutes of Council, its Boards, Committees and Sub-Committees to be placed on the Council’s website. Officers were also asked to investigate the practices in other Councils regarding the publication of commercially sensitive information and ‘Staff in Committee’ items. It is anticipated that these issues will be ratified by full Council on 25 March 2010.
They started well, and managed to publish PDFs for December 2009 and January 2010. And then it dried up. After asking in May 2010 for copies of the missing minutes covering the spring period, they started publishing online again.
But since June 2010, only two items have been added to their Council Minutes webpage. (Click to see the full – empty – list of minutes.)
Back in March 2010 the Socitm report surveying council websites was less than enthusiastic about the Castlereagh site.
Their team of reviewers pointed to a “lack of customer focussed content” and that “it would be good to … have some online forms etc”. They “couldn’t find an events calendar or councillor’s allowances/expenses”. But perhaps most importantly, “No search facility found” … “Add a search facility”.
Looks like it will be a while before Castlereagh Borough Council truly embraces the internet and voluntarily publishes its business online.
(Strangely the page holding links to the minutes is entitled “Waste FAQs”!)
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about, reports from, live-tweets and live-streams civic, academic and political events and conferences. He delivers social media training/coaching; produces podcasts and radio programmes; is a FactCheckNI director; a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland; and a member of the Corrymeela Community.