Publishing Minutes in an electronic format on Council websites

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Does anyone know of there is any guidance from NALC, DCLG or anywhere else which directs Town/Parish Councils to publish  their minutes and other docs in an electronic format capable of re use (which is an entitlement for any FOI information)?

Our town Council in common with many others publishes minutes of its meetings in a non readable format.  Effectively they print out  hard copies, scan them and post scanned images of the print out's to the website in pdf - but there is no electronic text contained in the files.  I regard it as wasteful and inefficient, and possibly a deliberate attempt to hinder the public from harvesting information.

Even worse, their standing orders have also been published this way, and the doc is 13.5 Mb!!
asked by (5.2k points)

1 Answer

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I understand your frustration, but I don't think they're doing anything wrong.  As you say, this is quite a common approach, sometimes prompted by a desire to publish the signed copy of the minutes etc.  The grant funding provided to smaller authorities to enable them to comply with the Transparency Code was specifically for a multifunction printer/scanner and could not be used on a standalone printer without scanning capability and this was, I believe, justified in the documentation by the need to scan all documents before uploading them.

Have you asked the council to consider publishing the original documents in pdf format?
answered by (4.4k points)
My request to publish the minutes etc in a reusable electronic format fell on deaf ears.  I also concluded that there was no obligation to publish in an electronic format capable of re use.  However, I was wondering if doing so was stipulated in any approved practice or recommended national policy.
Taking a look at random small parish councils, it seems that information such as minutes is normally published as a PDF that contains reusable text. I found one that published as HTML which also allows reuse. Scanning is appropriate for, say, the annual return which is normally hand written and signed. Although publishing as an image may not be unlawful, it certainly isn't best practice, and you could point out that it is not the way most parish councils are doing it. If small parish councils can do it, then town councils certainly should be able to!
Totally agree that it isn't best practice and it is inefficient use of the precept.  Publishing electronic readable docs  is the kind of thing that the (inept IMHO)  NALC should stipulate  for certifying Councils of  credit  instead of praising them for just abiding with regulations and legislation.
Like others I find it frustrating to have scanned pdf's on our website. The last time I checked the clerk prints the documents from word and then scans them in the multifunction printer to achieve the pdfs. Crazy, as searchable pdf's can easily be created direct from Word.
At the risk of being boastful, the council of which I am a member has all agendas and minutes on a subsidiary web site easily accessed from the main council web site, and it includes a search facility so that anyone can search for relevant documents. I'd recommend this approach!
Exactly as it should be! (Not sure you necessarily need a subsidiary web site however - but if it works for you, why not). The key is being able to search and find 'stuff'.  Not only is this facility useful for the public, but I find it useful in researching / googling what other councils do for any particular topic of interest. Amazing what gems you can find in other council minutes! xxx
Caroline, have you asked the Clerk why he/she does waste time by scanning hard copies?  It amounts to a waste of time and materials.   Has he/she been influenced by other Clerks to do this?
Well, we're getting into technical details now. The documents site is a subdomain of the council site, and uses different technology. It was done that way so that agendas could be created using a WIKI. That allowed council members to add their own items to the agenda at a time when we had problems with staffing. In practice, all updates are now done by the clerk, but self help could be reinstated if circumstances changed.
I ought to pop in and see her Graeme, but I tend to stay away from the office these days - with all three of the staff plugged into computers, the friendly atmosphere of the past has gone. Sometimes I think we are only there to rubber stamp the clerks ideas, (or not as the case maybe)
The staff are there to provide administrative support and enact cllrs decisions not the other way round! If it has got to that stage you need a staffing committee who will deal with the situation. One town council I know about brought in a management consultant who scrutinized the work of a clerk and the report was used to put the Clerk in her place. She resigned!

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