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Required period for retention of agendas and minutes

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In light of new accessibility requirements which also apply to documents does anyone know how long documents are required to be accessible online for.(stored for public access). Is there a specified "statute of limitations" after which documents can be virtually "shredded"?
asked by (4.7k points)

1 Answer

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The legal position on this one is quite vague, as the legislation is always slow to catch up with technological advances. From the Local Government Act, S100C requires principal councils to retain paper copies of minutes, agendas and reports for public inspection for six years from the date of the meeting, but also to create a digital copy which must remain accessible. No period is defined for this purpose, so it is assumed to be indefinite.

Whilst this legislation does not apply specifically to parish and town councils, there is no contradictory legislation and the Act includes provision for the safe deposit of the original documents with district or county councils. (S226)

Why are you considering removing the digital copies of these documents? Most will comply with the accessibility requirements and the legislation is not applied retrospectively. Creating a pdf record of all agendas and minutes allows you to Google your own website to find every occurrence of a particular word or phrase, saving hours of reading through paper copies.
answered by (22.5k points)
Hi Dave, you have confirmed my understanding regarding electronic records. I ask the question in respect of the new accessibility regulations and making documents accessible to all. With visually impaired users using a reader it would require standardisation of how the pdf's are named and logged to make access easy. How minutes that were saved as a pdf 6 years ago by a previous clerk would use a different method than today even though with normal access findable on the website. The only solution would be to update every document using the same tags (e.g. PC name/document/date). The standard method of archiving old minutes etc. as a year saved file set would not meet requirements as access must be as simple and direct as possible for users and by definition the simplest way would be a long continuous list on screen. Not very pretty. Hence my question how far back. My own PC has records going back to the 1990's
I'd be inclined to rename the last couple of years, as the documents most likely to be viewed. Beyond that, I wouldn't worry. To avoid the continuous list, display the latest five or six years and a sub-menu to open other pages, each with five or six years.
Dave all sensible points which I have gone through and logically agree with. Unfortunately the requirements of access see sub grouping into year sets or five year sets as a barrier to access by disabled users. As per usual this is a pathetic though well intentioned piece of legislation which in practical operation is impossible to comply with 100%. I agree that it is unlikely that the thought police will be breaking down any PC's doors for non compliance any time soon and all councils can do is their best endeavours to wade through this minefield and comply wherever possible.
I dabble in web design in my spare time and have a portfolio of about a dozen sites I host and maintain, including four parish councils. It has been interesting following the trends over the years. When I started, we catered only for large screen devices and sites were expected to be pretty to look at. We then started catering for small screens, usually with a dedicated site template, sharing the same content. Now we design responsive sites, capable of being viewed on all devices. Pretty is out. It's all just words.

Looking at WCAG 2.1AA, perhaps we should take our lead from Her Majesty's Government's gov.uk website. Long pages of lists of links to other pages that link to other pages and yet more pages beyond. I don't think we should be unduly concerned about our own sites!
We have a publication policy and Minutes are indefinate - agendas are not. . I actually have them back to about 1970 - the rest are in the records office.. I have scanned them in.
Our clerk scans all the documents for the website so they are not searchable unfortunately.
Any reason for this Caroline? I know some councils like to display the signed copy of the minutes, with the signature redacted, of course, so they could display a pdf of the unsigned document with a black rectangle and nobody would be any the wiser!

A scanned pdf can be made readable, with the correct software, but an image, such as a jpeg, cannot. For minutes, agendas and supporting documentation, if it isn't searchable, it can't be read by a screen reader, so you'll fall foul of WCAG 2.1AA
I think the reason is lack of IT skills and habit. Maybe a gentle reminder is in order.
Dave the Clerk's comments are very relevant in that there is no reason why a scanned image needs to be used as quality (readability) etc can vary considerably. Some years ago when Adobe (pdf) was a closed shop it could be expensive to convert documents to that format. Nowadays even humble word documents can be saved as pdf's which as Dave says makes them searchable and easily accessible for anyone searching for a topic. As most documents are produced as a word or equivalent word processer it is easy to have it saved as a pdf.

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