Pain In The Rs

posted on December 15th, 2005 by Anthony

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

My gleaming 360 is, admittedly, taking up my free time, (well that and general Chrimble related Tom Foolery) and I am totally neglecting my duties to post my usual ramblings.

So to make up for my laxness I thought it was about time I posted something serious about work.

Most of you strangers to this little blog probably won’t realise that during the day I work in Local Government as a web designer for Chester City Council. It may not be the most glamorous job in the world, but I enjoy it.

Lately the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has been throwing lots of targets our way to move towards the magical land of e-governance. By the end of the year we are supposed to be offering a whole slew of LocalGov goodness to the people of Chester.

These come in the form of Priority Outcomes, and the one I want to ramble about today is R6:

R6: Providing every Councillor with the option to have an easy-to-manage set of public web pages (for community leadership purposes) that is either maintained for them, or that they can maintain themselves.

www.councillor.poor

Now originally the authority wanted to go with a bought-in solution from www.councillor.info – check out their wonderful site, sit in wonder at their ‘A’ rated accessible design – hmmmmm, nice!

The service is yours… for a huge amount of cash up front, plus significant annual running fees. As you can see, currently 20 authorities have taken the easy option – and Chester was planning to be one,

Fortunately we in the web team (that’s two of us…) were asked to give it the once over before they stumped up the cash…

It took us about 3.2 seconds to realise that councillor.info was going to be useless. I mean you don’t even need to look at the source code to know that all your buying is a steaming bowl of Tag Soup.

So we stepped up to the plate and said we’d do it ourselves!.

Which way?

Our main council site (yes it uses tables – for now…) runs on a very expensive Content Management System. In theory we would have been able to develop the system to allow councillors to use that for their own sites.

We also knew that would be a complete nightmare, for a whole bundle of reasons I won’t risk talking about here.

Now I’m sure most of you have already come to the same conclusion that we did – we had to give them blogs!

OK, so now what?

Some of the councillors who are blogging!

I don’t need to tell you lot why blogs are perfect for this, and people like Andy Budd have already posted about why it could be a huge Government tool. The only thing we had to do was convince the Higher Ups that this was the way to go.

Fortunately I had already broken the Authorities blog virginity by setting up a blog for our Amphitheatre excavation project a couple of years ago. And there had already been another few occasions where the subject had been raised before.

Plus we told them it would cost about 1% of what councillor.info were charging!

It was never in doubt really ;o)

The chesterblogs logo

And chesterblogs was born!

Stay Tuned, there’s more!

As usual I haven’t been able to cotain my ramblings. So you’ll have to come back again soon to see how we did everything, how things are going, and if the whole thing was worth it!