Reading about the Foreign Office and the Treasury’s use of YouTube (see http://www.youtube.com/hmtreasuryuk and http://www.youtube.com/user/ukforeignoffice), government department bloggers, use of RSS and Flickr (for example, http://www.flickr.com/photos/foreignoffice/) in the 30 Year Rule Review got me wondering about the use of Web 2.0 services in West Yorkshire’s local authorities.
So I decided to find out! The results of my search are, I think, quite interesting.
All of the five Metropolitan Councils in West Yorkshire make use of RSS on their websites, except, apparently, Bradford. The Council Press departments are getting into Twitter too, to keep local people up to date with current events in Wakefield, Kirklees and Leeds.
Blogs were harder to track down – I’m sure there must be plenty of bloggers working in local government, but it seems they don’t want to identify themselves! http://www.newgarforthlibrary.blogspot.com/ is an example of a blog being used to generate support and give updates on a council building project. http://www.avhlblog.com/, is written by four members of staff at Aire Valley Homes, one of the arms-length management organisations (ALMOs) in Leeds, managing housing on behalf of the Council. Blogging doesn’t appear yet to have had the take-up amongst local councillors as it has amongst MPs, although Councillor Clive Hudson’s Cleaner Greener blog is an interesting example, hosted by blogspot under the wakefield.gov.uk domain. Local councillors’ websites (for instance, the Kirkstall Councillors in Leeds) are usually viewed as political activity, and separated from the ‘official’ council website, so this is an unusual development, which potentially raises all sorts of questions about responsibilties for the comments posted and for the longer-term maintenance of the content.
YouTube doesn’t seem too popular at present, although I did track down a Leeds Initiative channel. What I did find were plenty of YouTube videos posted by members of the public which were highly critical of the local councils. Perhaps the councils themselves should consider raising their YouTube presence?
There were a few examples of council Flickr sites, although not as many as I was expecting to find. One of the most extensive is Kirklees Council’s Economic Development Service’s photostream, although Leeds cultural services departments are also experimenting – but not much content yet – see http://www.flickr.com/groups/leedsmuseumsandgalleries/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/30193899@N04/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/leedslibraries/. Aire Valley Homes again showed up their Web 2.0 credentials with http://www.flickr.com/photos/avhl.
There are also a few dabblings with facebook groups – though you could hardly say that the official facebook groups have taken off in a big way. Kirklees Council apparently has an overwhelming 24 fans (though, to be fair, I did find also find a posting which intimated it had not been properly advertised as yet), Calderdale Council just 9 fans! As with YouTube, there were plenty of external groups in evidence with some kind of grudge to bear against the various councils. There were a few examples of council staff facebook groups – Kirklees Council staff with 91 fans, or Pugneys Country Park in Wakefield, for ‘staff new and old’. Most of these staff groups seem to be unofficial. Occasionally the messages they give out leave something to be desired, as with one (closed) council staff group profile which reads “you don’t need to be paranoid and leave the group if you think all facebookers can see it and what we are talking about. The group can ONLY be viewed by us members.” Hmm…