Councils invited to begin trials of 'new technology'
Local authorities are poised for a breakthrough their campaign for statutory notices to be published digitally - rather than in print, in local newspapers.
Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, has announced he was calling time on the strict tradition of printed notices "to bring municipal statutory notices into the 21st century". He invited local authorities to launch trials to use "new technology", but in partnership with local newspapers and other organisations.
It appears that the plan is for some notices - such as planning applications - to continue to be published in print, while others may no longer be.
In a statement, Pickles said he wanted to move away from the "sterile debate based on a binary choice of the total retention or total abolition of requirements to publish notices in local newspapers". He said: "Instead, we are inviting councils, newspapers and others to pilot innovative ways of improving statutory notices.
"We want to see how statutory notices can be better published and marketed through the likes of pooled notices in newspapers, improved procurement, digital advertising and location-specific mobile technology.
"How we consume information has drastically changed with advances in technology. Statutory notices need to change too."
Pickles made clear that public bodies would be required to do more than "provide just an obscure notice on the depths of a council website".
He added: "We are committed to supporting an independent free press and to ensuring that local taxpayers are better informed about council decisions that affect their lives."
The pilots will run from March this year to the end of August - past the 7 May general election - to test "what works and does not work in meeting the public's need and will".
Councils must submit expressions of interest by 28 January. Forms are available here:
Pictured: Eric Pickles by Paul Clarke © | paulclarke.com