Government looks to boost uptake of sites among thousands of parish councils

CDDO to undertake six-month project which hopes to boost national security and democratic engagement

Credit: Debbiemg/Pxhere

The government is seeking to boost uptake of websites among thousands of parish and town councils around the country.

Increasing the adoption of the public sector-wide domain would boost national security and local democratic engagement, according to government’s Central Digital and Data Office, which is planning to undertake a six-month project to help small local public bodies adopt domains – which are available for use on the websites of all central and local government entities, as well as fire services and police and crime commissioners.

The digital agency is seeking to appoint a supplier to support this programme of work. The chosen firm will be asked to recruit council representatives to take part in user research, which will then be used to inform trial exercises of new approaches that could make it easier for small organisations to adopt The success of these pilots will then be reviewed by CDDO and its commercial partner.

In a newly published contract notice, CDDO said that, of the 10,000-plus bodies around England that comprise the lowest tier of local government, only around 1,800 currently operate a website.

The notice added: “Many have chosen either to use a non-government domain, or not to have a domain at all. This may be because: it’s hard for someone unfamiliar with current best security practice to know where to start to guard against, or help others to guard against the most common cyberthreats; there are obligations that come with having a domain and it’s difficult to discharge these obligations without knowledgeable IT support.”

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CDDO’s chosen supplier will be asked to work with the National Association of Local Councils, and the Society of Local Council Clerks to recruit 10 councils to take part in the research and trials. This should include five that do not currently operate a site, and five that have registered for a domain but are having difficulties in fully adopting it.

The ultimate goal of the project is to help “increase the adoption and secure use of domains and modern cloud services linked to these domains across English parish councils, parish meetings, and small town councils”.

“This would bring a step change in the country’s cyber resilience at the foundational tier of our democracy because domains are continuously monitored, and if they get subverted for malicious purposes this will be quickly spotted,” the contract notice added.

Bids for the project – which will be worth about £250,000 to the supplier in question – are open until midnight on 2 December.

Parish and town councils often represent small rural or suburban towns and villages – although some represent large towns with tens of thousands of citizens. Councillors are elected to serve a four-year term, in which they will be responsible for managing the provision and maintenance of local amenities including allotments, little bins, playgrounds, community centres or meeting halls, public toilets, and war memorials. 

Some of the smallest civil parishes – typically with those fewer than about 200 citizens – do not have a council but, instead, operate parish meetings to oversee these issues.


Sam Trendall

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