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Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

Local Council Announcements via Newspapers, and Maybe Hyperlocal Blogs, Too…?

In a post on local council declarations of designated public place, I remarked on the following clause in The Local Authorities (Alcohol Consumption in Designated Public Places) Regulations 2007:

“5. Before making an order, a local authority shall cause to be published in a newspaper circulating in its area a notice— (a)identifying specifically or by description the place proposed to be identified;“

and idly wondered: how is a “newspaper circulating in its area” defined?

In Statutory Instrument 2012 No. 2089, The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012, which comes into force on September 10th, 2012, there is the following note on interpretations to be used within the regulations:

“newspaper” includes—
(a) a news agency which systematically carries on the business of selling and supplying reports or information to the newspapers; and
(b) any organisation which is systematically engaged in collecting news—
(i) for sound or television broadcasts;
(ii) for inclusion in programmes to be included in any programme service within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990(6) other than a sound or television broadcasting service within the meaning of Part 3 or Part 1 of that Act respectively; or
(iii) for use in electronic or any other format to provide news to the public by means of the internet; [my emphasis]

So, for the purposes of those regulations, a newspaper includes any organisation which is systematically engaged in collecting news for use in electronic or any other format to provide news to the public by means of the internet. (The 2007 regs interpretation section don’t clarify the meaning of “newspapers”.)

This presumably means, for example, that under regulation 14(2), my local hyperlocal blog, Ventnorblog, could request as a newspaper a copy of any of the documents available for public inspection following payment to the Isle of Wight Council of “postage, copying or other necessary charge for transmission”. Assuming Ventnorblog passes the test of (a) being an organisation, that (b) is systematically engaged in collecting news, and for backwards compatibility with other regulations can be show to be (c) circulating in the local council area.

If this interpretation of newspapers applies more widely, (for example, if this interpretation is now applied across outstanding Local Government regulations), it also suggests that whereas councils would traditionally have had to place an advert in their local (print) newspaper, now they can do it via a hyperlocal blog?

So this might also include announcements about Licensing of public entertainments [1(4)], or adult shops [2(2)], tattoo shops [13(6)], temporary markets [37(1)], traffic orders [17(2a)], etc etc

PS Hmm, I wonder, is there a single list somewhere detailing all the legislation that requires local councils to “publish in a newspaper circulating in the area”…?

PPS via @robandale, this Local Government Information Unit initiative on Reforming Statutory Notices. It links to a survey for local councils relating to “how many notices are produced, how much they cost, how effective you believe they are etc.” to try to get a baseline on current practice.

A quick peek at the Isle of Wight Council Armchair Auditor (as run by Ventnorblog and updated from Adrian Short’s original version) gives us an idea of how much the Isle of Wight Council spends on “Advertising and Publicity” in areas such as “Traffic Management” (so presumably statutory notices relating to roadworks, road closures etc?) with the local rag, the Isle of Wight County Press.

Presumably a search on OpenlyLocal’s council spending dashboard would turn up similar spending categories for other councils? (It could be quite interesting to try exploring that… I’m not sure if data on the OpenlyLocal spending dashboard has been updated lately, though? I think OpenSpending take their data from OpenlyLocal, so that isn’t much additional help. And the DCLG opendatacommunities.org site only has budget related finance data at the moment?)

Hmm..thinks.. you could get an idea of how much external spending burden different bits of legislation impose on councils from their spending data, couldn’t you?

Written by Tony Hirst

August 23, 2012 at 11:26 am

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