Without wishing to go over old ground, I have been giving a bit of thought to the website idea for the Network which I mentioned last year sometime. I didn’t take it any further at the time, as I thought Karen’s points were valid and would mean that it would be unlikely ever to get off the ground.
However, I’ve become interested in this again following discussions in and around the Conference, when various topics, like inter-authority working, were talked about and I think a website might be a great way to facilitate these sorts of projects.
Recently, in a non work related capacity, I have come across a bit of free software which enables websites to be setup and maintained quickly and easily, and where pages can be edited and created by any registered user. This would obviously alleviate the problem of who would update the site: everybody would. It’s remarkably easy to use and something that would literally take me half an hour to set up.
Stuff I thought of that could go on the site:
* NSN Admin stuff – a permanent record of minutes, agendas etc
* Individual Authorities’ pages – to be used as much or as little as necessary. For example, Norfolk County have a regularly updated, useful Scrutiny webpage and so little more than contact information and a link might be required. But for those authorities whose Scrutiny websites are more limited – possibly for technological reasons – (such as us!) this could be a really useful way of making information available.
* Library of reviews undertaken by member authorities.
* Collaborative Working – as mentioned above. This is what could be really interesting, and innovative. Using the website to conduct a County-wide review: maintaining lines of communication, sharing research and bits of data, inviting the public’s involvement. Rather in the same way (though obviously on a much smaller scale) that the Hutton enquiry put all evidence gathered on a website, this has the potential to do something similar – using IT but being very open at the same time.
* We could have a Scrutiny ‘blog’ – again, maintained by everybody. If someone comes across a piece of news which might not merit a large piece being written it would be possible for them to post a quick message on the blog, with a link to wherever that news first appeared. Occasional commentaries on work being undertaken could also be posted, inviting comment and suggestions from other members.
* How about an electronically maintained library of documents, booklets and articles about Scrutiny issues? There must be a wide range of documents which each authority has but which no-one else knows about or has access to. By maintaining a list of who-has-what and how to get hold of things, it might be possible to share this information around more easily.
* The advantages of having a site held off a Council server also means that all member authorities could use the site as a means to using the internet to gather information, such as by holding online questionnaires, for example.
Again, it’s possible I’m being a bit pie-in-the-sky over this, and work would have to be put in by everyone to make it work – though not perhaps as many as one might think. But in terms of raising the profile of scrutiny, and more specifically, scrutiny in Norfolk, especially when it comes to the issue of collaborative working, it could be a winner.
Haven’t sent it yet – it’s a good practice to hang onto these things and considers them later on!