The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has announced new funding for projects to help make statutory notices fit for the future.
Eric Pickles has called for innovative approaches to be taken to both protect local newspapers and provide essential information to the public in new ways.
He announced £950,000 of funding for 24 local pilot programmes as part of efforts to help councils bring their public information requirements into line with the modern media.
The Secretary of State backed proposals from both councils and local newspaper groups which embrace new technology and innovation to improve the provision of vital information to the public.
Mr Pickles has previously defended statutory notices as an important way of ensuring that local residents are informed of decisions that affect their property and lives. He has also said that public bodies must do more than provide just ‘an obscure notice’ on the depths of a council website, with local newspapers retaining a role.
The pilots include collaborations between councils and local media organisations, tests of new technology such as mobile phone applications and social media, and consultations with local people over how they want to receive information.
Mr Pickles said:
Statutory notices need to change but we must do more than just bury them at the bottom of websites. These projects will help find local solutions and help us move on from the sterile debate based on a binary choice between the total retention or total abolition of requirements to publish notices in local newspapers.
We are committed to supporting an independent free press, and to ensuring that local taxpayers are better informed about council decisions that affect their lives. I look forward to seeing the results.
The pilots will run from March 2015 to the end of August 2015.