We attempted to find every community council online presence: websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, etc. This work was first done in summer 2012, then repeated in spring 2014. We hope to repeat the survey in 2017, funding permitting.
The full reports are available on the publications.page.
Key findings – 2012
- Only 22% of CCs had up-to-date online public presences. However, only 139 presences (10%) could be described as complete, that is up-to-date, regularly updated and containing local area information, news and minutes.
- Despite CCs having a statutory right of audience about spatial planning matters, only 12% of online presences mentioned planning.
- CCs’ internet presences are generally not used to support their primary function of ascertaining community opinions. Instead, it seems that this function continues to operate through traditional means (e.g. newsletters and meetings), supplemented by email and ‘contact-us’ to support private online discussions.
- Only those few CCs using Facebook, other blog/social media systems or online fora where citizens can join conversations can be described as using the online route for engagement.
- LA-hosted presences guarantee that CCs have presences but not that they are up to date. LA-hosted presences are also not content-rich. Because out-of-date presences were most likely to be found on local community websites, arguably local community involvement alone isn’t enough to guarantee effective CC online presences. Support by LAs, or other relevant bodies, and CCs’ own energy is needed as well.
- Most interviewed CCs were maintained by just one CCllr. However, most had plans in case this CCllr suddenly ceased maintaining the presence.
- CCs’ own volition makes the difference between having no presence at all, mediocre presences and informative, content-rich presences that may serve citizens well. Election of CCllrs who have online interests and abilities appears to be a matter of luck.
Key findings – 2014
- There is little evidence of progress since 2012: the 1369 potential Community Councils can be broken down as follows:
- 211 (15%) do not exist (In 2012, 222 [16%] did not exist.)
- 503 (37%) exist but are not online (2012: 490 [36%])
- 348 (25%) are online but do not have up to date presences (2012: 349 [25%])
- Only 307 (22%) have an up to date presences. Of these, only 162 were also up to date in 2012, showing CCs have a real problem in maintaining an online presence.
- Thereis a high level of churn: while 125 CCs (9%) are newly online, 139 (10%) have ceased updating their websites – an indication of how challenging CCs are finding it to maintain a presence.
- 73 presences (11% of presences) do not provide ways for citizens to contact their Community Councillors. Only 12% use social media to host online discussion and opinion-gathering.
- Community councils’ main role is to represent their communities in the local planning process. Despite this, only 13% had any information on this core area – however this is an improvement on 2012.
- Many actively online CCs publish news; many can also be seen as acting as either representative institutions or campaigning groups (but generally not both). This is an area for further research.
- Despite the increase in the use of mobile phones and tablets for accessing the internet, online presences are still mostly websites aimed at desktop/laptop browsers.
- Performance varies significantly between local authorities (LAs) but even the best (Moray) has only 65% of its Community Councils actively online. West Dumbarton has none actively online, and Dundee, Eilean Siar, Orkney and West Lothian are at 5%. Related to this, there is some evidence that the LAs’ published CC schemes can positively influence their use of the internet.