|Coun Neil Poole, whose Ridge Ward includes Scawby and borders Brigg, using a tablet computer to access the authority's website.|
Some 407 UK council websites were reviewed as part of the national SOCITM Better Connected 2015 survey and North Lincolnshire Council retained its 3 star (our of 4) rating for a further year, narrowly missing out on achieving the coveted 4 star maximum.
When we first started reporting on local government in January 1980, having joined the staff of the Brigg-based Lincolnshire & South Humberside Times weekly newspaper, things were very different. Websites and email did not exist and all press releases and agendas for meetings arrived in the post.
If you wanted to know what the councillors had decided, you had to go, in person, to the meetings, which often took several hours. This was old-fashioned reporting - little changed from the mid-Victorian era when the Times was established. Today, in many cases, the decisions, agendas and reports are posted online.
In 1980 we had Brigg Town Council, Glanford Borough Council (based at what's now Hewson House) and Humberside County Council. North Lincolnshire, a unitary authority, arrived in 1996 and the old top-tier, Humberside, was abolished.
Glanford managed the council housing stock (now administered by North Lincolnshire Homes/Ongo), emptied the dustbins, decided most planning applications, ran elections and collected the council tax, as our precepting authority.
Humberside, based in Beverley, looked after roads, education, weights and measures and major planning (current jargon - spatial development and infrastructure).
Brigg Town Council's role in 1980 was similar to today but on a smaller scale. There was just one meeting a month, and no committees.
But let's return to the present day and North Lincolnshire Council's website...
Excellent comments were received throughout and their reviewer summarised: “This site is easy to use and offers a very good range of content. It uses accessible language and a logical sequence of menus within service areas.
Some areas are very good indeed, including Planning, Blue Badges and the Elections section.
It was marked down because of the failure of a report form on a mobile device.
The survey found the council had resisted the temptation to over-complicate the homepage. "This is plain but very effective," was the verdict.
The interactive mapping service is efficient and gives much very useful detail about location-based services. "A pleasure to use," the survey said.
North Lincolnshire Council commented: "Our site search and Google produced the expected results for a wide range of their standard phrases. And we complied with the required accessibility standards.
"We were also rated within the top ten of all UK councils in terms of volume of Self Service Account registrations, based on population. And we were also rated in the top four Yorkshire and Humber councils in terms of volume of customer visits based on population.
"During the last year we’ve refined our website design, worked on improving access for disabled customers and reviewed over 1,400 pages of content to ensure they are consistently easy to read and relevant. And we also reviewed over 500 customer comments about our online information."
A further series of improvements are planned for the coming year.
You can access a wide range of our services and information. It’s available all day, every day and it aims to be quicker and easier than calling us or coming in to our offices.
Coun Neil Poole (Ridge Ward), Cabinet Member for Policy and Resources at North Lincolnshire Council, who once worked in Brigg, said: “We continue to improve our website and have done well to maintain our three out of four star rating. There is so much people can do on our website. While the traditional face-to-face contact is still very much in use, we do encourage people to explore our website and see for themselves what they can do.
“We continue to encourage older people to get online through our free taster sessions and they are going really well with attendees finding out the many benefits of using the internet – not least to keep in touch with family and friends, but for booking holidays and theatres tickets, to voicing their opinions through various consultations and surveys. The options are endless and we would urge anyone to give it a go.”
Brigg Blog was interested in the "mobile device" reference. Our site, hosted by Google, no less, works well with mobile phones, which we know many people use to access our posts.
This is not something to which we upgraded, or for which we had to employ any changed settings. Our "desktop" version adapts itself to mobiles.
Clever folk, those Google tekkies!