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Councils not generating interest in local elections

Should be more info online, says survey

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County councils are failing to use their web pages to translate interest in the general election into interest in the local polls also taking place today.

Of the 34 county council websites surveyed by Socitm Insight (the Society of Information Technology Managers magazine), only four rated as "very good" for the amount of information they contained about the election. A further five rated "satisfactory", 20 rated "poor" and five contained no information at all.

The researchers were not asking much of the sites: only that they furnish answers to eight election-related questions. These included ‘does the election figure prominently on the home page?’ ‘Is it possible to find a list of councillors by ward?’ ‘Are procedures for postal voting clearly described’; ‘how will the results be published’ and so on.

Interestingly, the survey found no link between good performance in this test and good performance of the site overall. Only one of the sites Socitm rates as 'transactional' (its highest accolade for council web sites) managed to score better then 'poor' in this additional test.

Martin Greenwood, programme manager for Socitm Insight, commented: "Generally, politicians and public policy makers are concerned about the lack of engagement in local government, and yet even given the restrictions of election time 'purdah', our survey shows that in many parts of the country a major opportunity for democratic engagement is being missed." ®

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