Friday, 21 January 2011

Drink to me only with thine eyes, and I will pledge with mine... but only if five other local people will do the same

John Dix (Mr Reasonable blog) has written about the cost of Barnet council's latest social media experiments. Local versions of PledgeBank, FixMyHole, sorry, FixMyStreet, etc. are to be supplied by a company called MySociety, up to a cost of £140,000.

There might even be a local version of TheyWorkForYou, the website where people can keep tabs on their MPs, only Barnet's version will be an attempt to make councillors more accountable (PMSL).

Mr Reasonable says:
Some of the cost is coming from grants, but the costs of the new Barnet Pledgebank website and the petitions website are coming out of council budgets. There still seems to be a culture of spending money on gimmicks while frontline service are being cut and frankly that offends me!
I'm with him on that.

The council document Mr R bases himself on is available here. Among the examples of things that MySociety might do for Barnet, I find something pretty ominous.
- The Democratic Services Team works hard to ensure that good quality agendas and minutes are made for each key committee or Cabinet meeting.

- Unfortunately... the core parts of committee activities – what they actually decide – is lost inside large PDF files, buried deep within part of the Barnet website.

- We propose to make it far easier to access the Decisions and Recommendations from committee and Cabinet and allow people to sign up for decision alerts based on keywords of interest.
What do you reckon? Do you think that the council is going to stop providing access to all their documents, such as the one that I found this proposal in? Are they going to dumb down "Governance and Democracy", and call it democratic?

P.S. Meanwhile, my own pledge on Real PledgeBank is going well.

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