Public notices: the case for radical reform

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Can we improve the way we distribute public notices?

Take part in the survey for this project: LGiUsurveys/publicnotices

It has been estimated to cost local authorities £67.85m every year to have statutory notices published in local newspapers. This seems a large spend under today’s current local media landscape in which

  • readership of local newspapers is declining, dailies are turning to weeklies, and some papers are ceasing print editions full stop.
  • the number, and readership, of citizen-led hyperlocal / community websites meanwhile has been increasing – and their use and appreciation by elected members and officers has been too.
  • web technology allows for simple, cost-effective and publication on the internet.

This project is exploring new and more effective ways for councils to distribute statutory notices.

LGiU aims to challenge the current system and look ahead to a ‘digital by default’ method of interaction between council and local community.

Initial report

The first report of this project has been published. We found:

Councils are crying out for change – over 90% of the councils LGiU have surveyed want the current legal requirements on public notices updated – “they are an out-of-date anachronism of a pre-electronic age” says one participant, with three-quarters (76.6%) indicating they would prefer to publish online only.

We also found that, for some councils, the cost of publishing a public notices can be upwards of three times the cost for other adverts.

The report calls for change in the following areas:

  • councils should be free to decide where is best to place public notices
  • more work needs to be done to de-jargon and standardise the content of public notices
  • councils who do publish notices online should offer users a email subscription service, allowing uses to opt-in to receive public notices
  • hyperlocal, neighbourhood websites, as well as traditional local media news sites, should be encouraged to carry feeds of council notices
  •  the Government should look into the possibility of supporting the development of a central online portal for publishing public notices – like the Scottish Government and COSLA have done north of the border.

Get involved

We have re-opened the survey on which this report was based. To provide information on your authority, please follow this link.

LGiU is looking to work with local authorities, local news organisations and citizen-reporters. If you fancy getting involved in our work over the next few months, please get in touch at [email protected]

This project is supported by GovDelivery