Pickles calls for digital innovation on statutory notices

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has called on councils to work on digital solutions to make statutory notices more accessible to the public.

Speaking to council leaders at the Local Government Association annual conference, Pickles said the government would resist calls from the LGA to abolish statutory notices – such as planning application lists.
He said that such notices were an important way of keeping residents informed of decisions affecting their life, but had to be improved.

He said: “I want councils to work with the newspaper industry to look at new ways we can improve statutory notices and better inform the public.

“Digital advertising. Social media. Location-specific mobile technology. Pooling statutory notices, so they’re not in a nine point font at the back of the newspaper, but front up, with weblinks to find out more.”

Pickles has already banned one way in which councils publish such notices – the council-run newspaper – but called on new ways of providing the information.

He defended the move, saying: “Newspapers need to embrace new technology to survive. But they should not face unfair competition from council newspapers.

“And 21st century independent media offer councils the chance to reach out, inform and engage – an alternative to the depths of obscurity in a council website or lavatory without a light.”

Pickles said that he would bring the newspaper industry and councils together to encourage a number of pilots to showcase innovation.

He also said that councils could not “cling to analogue interpretations on public access”, and said local government was at the forefront of the open data agenda.

He said: “Both the private and public sector need to embrace the technology and the internet and changing public demand, otherwise they will fall by the wayside.”

Colin Marrs

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