Our recent survey of local government officers and elected members suggests that they regard neighbourhood websites as the most useful online channel, above others such as Facebook or Twitter.

We invited respondents to assess the following as ‘not useful’, ‘fairly useful’, or ‘very useful’ or indicate if they ‘don’t use’:

1. Local residents’ personal Facebook profiles

2. Area-based Facebook pages or groups (not council run)

3. Council Facebook page

4. Member Facebook profile/page

5. Local residents’ personal Twitter streams

6. Twitter streams set up as neighbourhoods channels

7. Council Twitter stream

8. Residents’ groups’ websites and chat groups

9. Local online communities of interest e.g. local environmental groups, history groups etc

10. Local bloggers

11. Neighbourhood websites

(We had previously defined the term ‘independent citizen-led neighbourhood websites’ as sites having the following characteristics:

  • established and run by local citizens
  • with most of the content relating to local issues or interests
  • open to discussion and contributions from anyone living in the area or with an interest in the area.)

Both categories of respondent indicated that neighbourhood websites are the most useful to them in their role. The last four channels in the list were all regarded by elected members as ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ useful, and the figures are similar for officers.

A significant minority of members responding (ranging from 38 to 47 per cent) say that they do not use the first seven of these channels (Facebook or Twitter). A quarter of them find members’ Facebook pages useful.

Among officers, 41 per cent say that they do not use members’ Facebook pages. Officers appear to value Twitter, particularly its use by councils: almost 80 per cent of officers find their council’s Twitter stream useful.

Kevin Harris and Hugh Flouch