Best of the frontline bloggers (week ending 19th October 2012)

We love public and voluntary service bloggers. At their best, they capture the day-to-day reality of public services in a way that Westminster-commentators can’t – and they have the real expertise and insights we need to improve social policy. Here’s our selection of the best frontline blogs we’ve read this week. Do send us your suggestions for great posts we’ve missed – and those frontline bloggers we should follow in the future.

Social care

What I would say to Norman Lamb

From Ermintrude2

Posted on 18th October 2012

“What I see are cuts. I see respite narrowing in terms of ability to access. I see provisions which had been helpful, closing. I see a lack of beds in the local hospitals when they are needed and I see people who need support being denied it because there are no provisions left. So take your pleasantries and policy ideas and come and spend a day with me in the community and you’ll see why I am impatient and unbelieving about the platitudes that emerge from those who don’t seem to understand what is happening ‘out there’.”

Ermintrude, who works in dementia services, speculates on what she would say if she had the opportunity to meet with Norman Lamb, the new Liberal Democrat Social Care Minister. She argues that those in positions of power – be it Ministers of Senior Managers – need to take responsibility for their policies by listening to those who work at the frontline and are responsible for putting these policies into practice.

Not the Francis report

From Whose Shoes?

Posted on 17th October 2012

“Life can often only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.It is important and necessary to look back and understand what went wrong in Mid Staffordshire and ensure that the voices of those affected have been adequately heard. But it is also vital that we now look forward and learn the lessons to create a system in which poor quality and unsafe care can no longer be ignored.”

A guest post by Laura Robinson, Policy & Communications Advisor for National Voices, raises fundamental issues around patient care and patient safety, following the independent inquiry in Mid Staffordshire. There is already much collective wisdom and widespread consensus on what needs to be done to ensure that care is safe, effective and responsive to patients’ needs. ‘Not the Francis report’, published by National Voices this week, brings this together in a series of recommendations and urges the Government and NHS leaders to drive forward improvements across the whole system of health and social care.

Lead like lambs into his hands: Is light entertainment more important than child protection?

From Secret Social Worker’s Blog

Posted on 12th October 2012

“Child protection can never be a matter for just professionals but instead must be a concern for the whole community. Those who see or know about the sexual abuse of children should have little doubt about its destructive outcome and how utterly wrong it is. Therefore there can be few excuses for allowing it to continue. There is ALWAYS something you can do.”

In this post the Secret Social Worker argues that the Savile scandal reminds us that child protection is the responsibility of the whole community, not just statutory agencies.

Social workers have a duty to join Saturday’s anti-austerity march

From the Social Work Blog

Posted on18th October 2012

“David Cameron can tell us that “we’re all in this together”, but as social workers we know this couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Lizzie Furber, a social worker and member of the Social Work Action Network, argues that social workers are in the frontline when it comes to seeing the impact of cuts. Lizzie issues a call to action for all social workers to take part in the anti-austerity march taking place in London on Saturday 20th October. She argues that cuts affect all areas of social work, with caseloads soaring.

Health

“Return the money” – is spending less on healthcare the moral thing to do?

From @micmac650

Posted on 18th October 2012

“For me this has been crystallised by the impending Scottish independence referendum. Soon we may be making the decisions about our own country – what balance of expenditures will give us the healthiest and happiest population? I’m fairly confident that diverting money from nuclear missiles to healthcare would be a good thing. But how do we balance the competing demands of a universal high speed broadband network or higher teacher-pupil ratios?”

Mark MacGregor (@micmac650) is an Associate Medical Director and consultant nephrologist in NHS Ayrshire & Arran. He is also a Health Foundation fellow. In this post he argues that clinicians need to put the days of campaigning for more resources behind them, and instead devote energies into addressing the ‘health productivity challenge’ – how do we maximise health gains within existing resources?

Democracy

From Dr Grumble

Posted on 14th October 2012

“I have never really thought that I live in a true democracy. The world’s oldest democracy is just a stock phrase I trotted out. It probably stems from the ruling classes intent on giving us plebs the illusion that we have some control over our lives. We don’t. Not much anyway.”

Dr Grumble describes how a threat of a hospital closure is being pushed through with little engagement of both GPs and consultants. The Chief Executive of the hospital states that ‘the hospital was not a democracy. It’s not. It never has been and it never will.’ Dr Grumble describes how people have been invited to take part in a formal consultation, but laments that ‘formal consultation processes are more about telling the populace what is going to happen than listening to their concerns.’

Policing

@craig2383 meets the Home Secretary

From Nathan Constable

Posted on 14th October 2012

“I told her that if she wants to make the Police political then this reg needs to go. Her response was that the Police wont be political but rather run by a democratically elected person. However I then told her that we as the Police can’t be part of that as either as Police or public as regs still governs our behavior in our personal life. I told her that we can’t publicly support any candidate in any way or even stand for election. This means that there is a direct conflict with the PCC process and the very core of Police regs. Its almost like this was a completely new thing to her.”

@craig2383 has spoken to his MP about Police Reform. It just so happens that his MP is none other than Home Secretary Theresa May. Craig shares his account of the meeting via Nathan’s blog. In the post, Craig shows the limits of May’s knowledge of the reforms that her Government is pushing through. He also points out the tension between politicisation of the police service and the rules governing police officers’ political activities.

Education

Mixed ability

From Frank Chalk

Posted on 16th October 2012

“Let’s not pretend or mince our words here – Miss Jones is simply wasting Brandon, Lee and Edward’s time. It’s not her fault – she is only human and cannot possibly deal with such a ridiculously large spectrum of abilities. Deep down, she feels that mixed ability classes seem to let down the best and the worst. All she has ever been told however, is how great it is that the school is so ‘inclusive’.”

In this post, Frank Chalk points out the challenges for teachers in meeting the needs of a diverse range of students in mixed ability classes. He argues that the system is failing higher achieving pupils and those who require more support.

Previous reads

Here’s another great post published in the last few weeks.

Taking comms back to basics

From Carolyne Mitchell

Posted on 4th October 2012

“This is comms 1.0. It’s about getting back to basics and thinking about the way we communicate with the public directly, not through the media. It’s about plain English, cutting through the crap, getting to the point and making it as easy as possible to deal with the council.”

Inspired in part by the Government’s Behavioural Insights Team, Carolyne Mitchell, a communications officer at South Lanarkshire Council, considers how local government comms needs to be less about press releases and more about changing public behaviours.

If you’re a frontline blogger, do send us your latest blogs on policy issues or posts from the past that you’re particularly proud of, and they could be included in next week’s round-up. Get in touch with us at: info@guerillapolicy.org or via Twitter @guerillapolicy and @guerrillapolicy


Open policymaking: Should there be a ‘duty to involve’ for national policy?

As Edward Andersson from Involve noted in his recent blog reviewing the new consultation principles issued by government: “Today consultation has, for many citizens, become a byword for formalistic, tick box exercises, done to mask a decision which is already a ‘done deal’.” Edward rightly suggested that the new principles, while important, fall short of providing the solution to this widely shared view of consultation. Could one solution be a national ‘duty to involve’, similar to the requirement that some local public services are already subject to? In which case, national policymakers should look to their local counterparts for what works.

This post is part of the project on open policymaking and better consultation, hosted by the Democratic Society in association with the Cabinet Office. As Anthony Zacharzewski, head of DemSoc, has summarised it: “Open policymaking is the natural corollary of open data and transparency, requiring openness and allowing public participation at every stage of decision-making and implementation. It supports citizen action and positive involvement of the public in shaping laws and services.” This active engagement is obviously very different in scope and ambition to traditional consultation, but this doesn’t mean we’re starting from scratch. If, as the Government has said, in the future “all policies will be made openly”, we could learn from where there have already been attempts to achieve a different, more deliberative approach to decision-making – in local government and local public services.

Many of these local duties to involve citizens have been introduced through national policy. For example, Section 138 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 imposed a duty on all councils and ‘best value’ authorities to involve ‘local representatives’ when carrying out functions by providing information, consulting or ‘involving in another way’. Councils must engage with a balanced selection of the individuals, groups, businesses or organisations the council considers likely to be affected by, or have an interest in, the council’s functions (including children and young people as appropriate). For the National Health Service, legislation which came into force in 2003 placed a duty on certain organisations to involve and consult, but managers were not always clear when they had to involve people or how it was best to do this. The 2007 act aimed to make this clearer; the duty requires NHS organisations to involve users of services in the planning and provision of services, the development and consideration of proposals for changes in the way services are provided, and decisions affecting the operation of services. Section 242 of the earlier consolidated NHS Act 2006 was also supported by useful guidance on achieving ‘Real Involvement‘ from service users and communities.

The NHS’s operating framework further emphasised that this engagement should be ongoing, not just during periods of change. Primary Care Trusts and NHS providers should “…create greater opportunities for their communities to make their voices heard, raising awareness of those opportunities and empowering patients and the public to use them and LINks [Local Involvement Networks]; [and] take greater responsibility for communicating with their local populations and stakeholders to ensure better understanding of, and confidence in, local NHS services.” More recently, the NHS constitution underlines that public and user involvement should be part of the fabric of the NHS: “You have the right to be involved, directly or through representatives, in the planning of healthcare services, the development and consideration of proposals for changes in the way those services are provided, and in decisions to be made affecting the operation of those services.”

The reality of local engagement might only rarely meet these ambitions, and many local policymakers, managers and clinicians might question the extent to which the public can play a constructive part in decisions on reconfiguring clinical services. Views on the success of local LINks vary widely, and they are due to be replaced by Local Healthwatch organisations in April 2013 as part of the ‘new NHS’. But this gap between aspiration and reality may be more a matter of developing and using the right methods for engagement – and being seen by local communities to be making genuine efforts at this engagement – rather than a fundamental problem with the aspiration itself (these are after all public services, paid for by the public, and they should surely be accountable as such).

Organisations such as Involve (a partner in this discussion) have a wealth of experience about what works locally (Edward referenced some very useful resources in his blog) – surely some of these principles and practices could not only be better shared locally, but applied to national policy as well? As we’ve noted before, one of the reasons that the Government’s NHS reforms ran into such difficulty was the view held by stakeholders that the policy was developed in a fundamentally closed way rather than constructively and collaboratively. The Government says that empowering individual patients and increasing the local accountability of health services is at the core of its reforms; shouldn’t we apply the same principles of empowerment and accountability to the development of health policy as well as the operation of health services – and to any policy for that matter?

The Government’s Civil Service Reform Plan, where its committment to open policy was announced, makes no reference to existing local methods of engagement and how these could inform open policymaking at a national level. Nonetheless, national policymakers should look to the methods that have been used by local policymakers and planners to engage their communities and service users in decision-making – both the successes and the failures – and consider how the most effective approaches could be adopted and adapted for national policy. Open policy is an ambitious agenda. Making it real will require effective methods for engagement, but also ways of requiring that policymakers develop policy openly. As well as learning from local methods of engagement, do we need an equivalent national ‘duty to involve’ stakeholders in policy development?


Best of the frontline bloggers (week ending 5th October 2012)

We love public and voluntary service bloggers. At their best, they capture the day-to-day reality of public services in a way that Westminster-commentators can’t – and they have the real expertise and insights we need to improve social policy. Here’s our selection of the best frontline blogs we’ve read this week. Do send us your suggestions for great posts we’ve missed – and those frontline bloggers we should follow in the future.

Local government

Graph of doom – fact or fantasy – an alternative perspective

From Mr Reasonable

Posted 1st October 2012

“Barnet Council have been pushing a chart …which has gained the rather unpleasant title “The Graph of Doom” to show how the Council will run out of money for any services other than Adult Social Care and Children’s Services by 2030. This chart has been used in Cabinet documents to justify the need for the One Barnet Outsourcing programme. It has also gained traction in the national press where it is seen as a revelatory document which we should all be accepting as the gospel according to St. Barnet.”

A ‘reasonable and respectable resident standing up for common sense’ in the London Borough of Barnet dissects the infamous (in policy circles, at least) ‘Graph of Doom’ – and shows that the reality is more of a ‘Graph of Choices’ instead.

Disability

Disability issues finally break through at Labour conference

From Diary of a Benefit Scrounger

Posted on 3rd October 2012

“No matter what we did, we had to break the consensus. We had to make sure that the opposition opposed. Just two years ago we had nothing and no-one. Today, we have a very different board to play on. Many will say it is not enough, and of course, they are right. But as a friend once said to me, “Don’t judge on where someone is, judge on how far they traveled.”

Sue Marsh provides a perspective on this year’s Labour Party conference where disability issues finally made it into the mainstream – after a massive effort by campaigners and activists.

Probation

Train crash

From On Probation Blog

Posted on 3rd October 2012

“As I’m writing this, there are civil servants down in London at the Ministry of Justice drawing up contracts for the benefit of private companies such as G4S. How is anyone to feel comfortable or reassured that they are any better than their colleagues over at the Department of Transport in being able to fairly assess the relative merits of different bids, and especially those that have to be measured against public sector bidders?”

Jim Brown speculates on what the West Coast mainline franchising fiasco means for the outsourcing of prisons and probation services by the Ministry of Justice.

Carers

Children shouldn’t be responsible for filling gaps in care

From Carers Blog

Posted on 1st October 2012

“One of the problems we face is that where local authority care budgets are cut, then if someone has care needs, that care still has to be provided by someone – and it inevitably falls to friends and family to provide it. This is hard enough for adults, and we know many are struggling to cope with cuts in services and family finances. We need to make the point crystal clear that it is never acceptable to expect a child to fill the gap in care which is left when services are cut.”

Moira Fraser of the Carers Trust reports back from the Labour Party conference and shares her concern that those organisations working to support young carers are not communicating their messages clearly enough.

Policing

National Police Air Service launches today – lies and spin

From Police Aircrew

Posted on 1st October 2012

“There are some basic facts that need to be cleared up. You wouldn’t think “facts” needed clearing up would you because they are facts; the truth and therefore should be clear to all. Unfortunately Mr Green the Policing Minister has either been misinformed or is not telling the truth.”

Welcome to a new frontline blogger, Police Aircrew. In their first post they debunk the facts that have been presented to rationalise the police helicopter service into the new National Police Air Service. The new service is designed to save £15 million a year; in this post Police Aircrew speculates about further cuts that are coming down the line.

If Michael Portillo forgets you…

From Catemoore’s Blog

Posted on 29th September 2012

“When Michael Portillo looks at a person in a uniform, he sees just that. A person in a uniform. If that person is driving a fast car with blue lights flashing and siren blaring, or if that person is involved in an active arrest, shouting at suspects or perhaps cuffing a prisoner, Michael Portillo’s brain recognises a Police Officer. If that person is guarding a gate or standing on a fixed point or chatting to the public, he just sees a person in a uniform. That person might be an armed officer but could just as easily be a PCSO or G4S guard or security at an airport. His mind does not differentiate any more.”

A ‘woman, mother, wife, carer and retired Met officer’ reflects on how the quasi-official appearance of private security company employees may have affected how the public perceive the police as just another group of ‘jobsworths’.

Previous reads

Here’s another great post published in the last few weeks.

Clustering and Payment by Results: The end of service user centred mental health care?

From The Masked AMHP

Posted on 27th September 2012

“Most mental health service users will be completely unaware that when they are assessed by Community Mental Health Teams or in hospital their mental health problems and symptoms are now subjected to an arcane system known as Clustering.”

The Masked AMHP describes the impact of the use of clustering and payment by results in the commissioning of local mental health services – and argues that the real ‘customer’ under this approach is the new GP consortia rather than service users.

If you’re a frontline blogger, do send us your latest blogs on policy issues or posts from the past that you’re particularly proud of, and they could be included in next week’s round-up. Get in touch with us at: info@guerillapolicy.org or via Twitter @guerillapolicy


Open policy requires open research – the CBI’s report on outsourcing public services doesn’t meet this standard

Last week the CBI published research that claimed that government could save billions by outsourcing more public services to private business. Ironically for a report titled ‘Open Access’, the main problem with the report is not its argument but its lack of transparency. For such an important issue as the future of public services and who delivers them, we aren’t given enough opportunities to judge for ourselves whether the report’s claims stand up to scrutiny. Open policy requires a much greater openness about the data and analysis used to support such conclusions – otherwise it’s just a press release.

The CBI’s Open Access report claims that “opening up public service delivery to independent providers” (that is, outsourcing public services) could achieve savings of £22.6 billion “or more”. For such a big claim, the research has a fairly simple methodology. The researchers (Oxford Economics) looked at 20 different service areas to determine the average cost savings from greater efficiency and productivity from outsourcing (a figure of at least 11 per cent, within a range of 10-20 per cent); applying the same calculations across the estimated £278 billion of public services which the CBI believes could be fully ‘opened up’ produces potential savings from outsourcing of £22.6 billion.

Trade unions have criticised the report for a ‘lack of evidence’ (for example, Unison) and for not taking into account any of the transactional costs associated with outsourcing including procurement, tendering and contract management, let alone when private providers fail to deliver. The Local Government Association called the report’s calculations “ludicrous” for effectively double-counting savings from services which have already been outsourced. Other commentators have identified specific flaws in the research (for example, for fundamentally misunderstanding who already provides what in the housing sector).

Beyond this, it’s also important to note that efficiency is not the same as effectiveness, which is to say, cheaper does not always represent real value for money. This is especially the case when it comes to public services where there are often broader considerations to be made regarding ‘public value‘ – encompassing not only benefit to the individual service users but also to communities and society as a whole.

For example, it’s unfortunate that the CBI’s report promotes the Work Programme as a model of good practice, both because of the identified risk of fraud in the programme, but also because of the significant concerns about the programme’s impact on charities. As the NCVO has argued: “The Work Programme continues to pose major issues for charities particularly around managing cash flow and taking on risk and very large contracts prevent smaller and more specialist organisations from playing their full part. More seriously it’s clear that the payment structures used continue to threaten the viability of contracts.” However ‘efficiently’ it achieves its objectives, if a programme undermines the diversity of provision including from smaller charities, can it really be regarded as generating better ‘value’ for society?

Further, while the report recognises the widely shared public concerns about outsourcing public services, it also effectively makes these problems that government needs to solve – as if government is to blame for them: “The Government must take important steps to ensure the public retains confidence in the opening up of public services by becoming a more effective market manager and ensuring that the best, most effective providers from all sectors have the opportunity to manage our public services. Providers too must work with the government to address the public’s concerns about value for money, accountability and service failure.” Certainly government has the ultimate responsibility to ensure that public money is spent responsibly, for example that providers are properly audited. But if they are to be given millions or billions of pounds of public money, private providers also need to do more to prove their worth and reliability, such that they can be trusted to provide public services (something not helped by last week’s further revelations about the G4S Olympics debacle). Of course, one way to avoid such problems would be not to outsource more public services – but this is a view that the CBI regards as “dogmatic”.

However, the main problem with the CBI’s report is that we can’t properly determine the accuracy or veracity of the research for ourselves. It seems particularly questionable to assume that the same level of savings can be achieved uniformly across different areas of public services, and yet to quote from the research: “If an average 11% of productivity improvements is achievable across just £24.5bn out of the £666bn annual public sector expenditure on services in the UK, then similar levels of savings must be possible: not just in the un-open proportion of the markets researched but in the unopened proportion of the estimated £278bn of public services spending which could practicably be more opened up to independent provision.” [emphasis added]

Unfortunately, it’s not possible for us to investigate this much further. The problem is the methodology – or rather its lack of openness. As acknowledged in the report: “There is as yet little published information on the scope and performance of services delivered by independent providers.” The average saving figure used in the report is based on “existing research, and information from public bodies and providers” – including crucially from a survey of CBI members. The CBI has produced a nicely presented summary of the analysis by Oxford Economics; the actual analysis (which is a bit more difficult to find) is pretty opaque, especially when it comes to this survey of CBI members. One phrase that keeps popping up in the original Oxford Economics analysis is: “The degree of potential cost savings that could be achieved through outsourcing these services is estimated from responses to the CBI member survey.” In other words, the most critical figure in the research, the basis of the argument made in the report, comes from what the CBI’s own members claim – a claim we are unable to judge for ourselves because we are provided with no further information about it (for example, how many of the CBI’s members responded, what size were these providers, what specific types of services they provide, etc). For an argument in favour of open public services, this represents a remarkably closed approach to evidence.

As the CBI’s report notes, we are in the middle of the biggest wave of government outsourcing since the 1980s, with more than £4 billion in tenders being negotiated in 2012 alone in services ranging from prisons and police to defence and health. Given this, we need much more robust and reliable research about the benefits and the problems that outsourcing more public services would produce – before we outsource these services (perhaps irreversibly). The research commissioned by the CBI may or may not be a useful contribution to this analysis; the problem is that because of the report’s own lack of transparency, it’s very difficult for us to know.


Local authorities on Twitter

This is the fifth in a series of posts on local authorities’ use of Twitter. We’ve been counting down local authorities according to the size of their following – this post reviews the results and offers up some thoughts.

As we’ve suggested here before, social media is a cheap and easy way to engage stakeholders, for think tankscentral governmenttrade bodies and directly elected mayors. We even think it could be used to open-up policy research and development, for example for local authorities to connect with their communities. So which councils appear to be using social media, in this case Twitter, the most?

We’ve looked at the corporate Twitter accounts of all 434 UK local authorities – district, county, metropolitan borough and unitary authorities. This shows that 91% of local authorities have a corporate Twitter account. Of these that don’t, Northern Ireland is disproportionally represented, with 15 authorities out of the 39 not having a Twitter account. The 91% figure represents a significant expansion of local authorities’ use of Twitter since 2009 (at that time, a study by LGEO Research showed that only 124 councils were using Twitter, now this has grown to 395 authorities).The total Twitter community around councils is 941,610, whilst local government has tweeted 646,755 times.

The top ten authorities are:

No. Local authority Twitter name No. of followers No. of tweets
1 Glasgow City Council @GlasgowCC 24,016 1,765
2 Edinburgh City Council @Edinburgh_CC 13,054 2,527
3 Newcastle upon Tyne City Council @NewcastleCC 11,992 5,521
4 Belfast City Council @belfastcc 11,639 6,444
5 Manchester City Council @ManCityCouncil 11,313 2,962
6 Cardiff City Council @cardiffcouncil 10,054 4,926
7 Nottingham City Council @MyNottingham 9,374 2,694
8 Leeds City Council @leedscc 9,161 1,838
9 Brighton and Hove City Council @BrightonHoveCC 8,718 7,573
10 Kent County Council @Kent_cc 8,664 2,782

Nine of the top ten councils are large cities, with only one traditional county council represented – Kent. None of the top ten are district authorities, in fact only two appear in the top 50 – Oxford (no.25 – 5,688 followers) and Preston (no.46 – 4,747 followers). Both are large towns with populations of approximately 140,000 to 150,000. No London Boroughs appear in the top 20, although 7 appear in the top 50 with Lambeth (no.21 – 6,434 followers), Lewisham (no.28 – 5,411 followers) and Westminster (no.29 – 5,392) leading the way.

Six local authorities have more than 10,000 followers. Whilst 38 have more than 5,000 followers, representing 10% of councils. 28% of local authorities have less than 1,000 followers. So whilst this expansion has taken place, this is not universal. Our research points to both an urban connection and the use of Twitter and the number of followers.

A slight aside, we also observed the Government’s policy to rationalise back off functions in councils manifest through their social media presence.  Adur and Worthing share a joint Twitter account.  Whilst in Dorset, a number of authorities are sharing a Twitter account @dorsetforyou.

In our previous research on think tanks, we only looked at the number of followers. In this case, we also included the number of tweets sent. We didn’t analyse the quality of tweets, or separate out broadcast tweets from those that engaged in dialogue with local citizens. Nonetheless, we found that 203 local authorities have tweeted more than 1,000 times. Meanwhile, seven authorities with a Twitter account have never sent a tweet. Clearly, resourcing social media efforts matters. Walsall Council for instance has a team of five people who are named as their tweeters on their feed.

Top ten tweeters are:

No. Local authority Twitter name No. of followers No. of tweets
1 Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council @WalsallCouncil 5,214 12,949
2 St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council @sthelenscouncil 3,886 9,514
3 Sunderland City Council @SunderlandUK 8,202 7,835
4 Brighton and Hove City Council @BrightonHoveCC 8,718 7,573
5 Monmouthshire County Council @MonmouthshireCC 4,109 7,044
6 Winchester City Council @WinchesterCity 3,151 6,963
7 Stoke on Trent City Council @SoTCityCouncil 4,603 6,877
8 South Ayrshire Council @southayrshire 3,097 6,628
9 Surrey County Council @SurreyCouncil 4,534 6,585
10 Belfast City Council @belfastcc 11,639 6,444

There also seems to be a connection between activity on Twitter and the number of followers. Of the 106 councils with less than 1,000 followers, only eight have tweeted more than a 1,000 times.

Position on top Twitter list Local authority Twitter name No. of followers No. of tweets
283 Allerdale Borough Council @allerdale 997 3,785
288 Mole Valley District Council @MoleValleyDC 949 1,747
289 Bexley Council @whatsoninbexley 943 1,141
291 Copeland Borough Council @copelandbc 911 1,169
298 East Staffordshire Borough Council @eaststaffsbc 855 1,578
312 Surrey Heath Borough Council @Surreyheath 717 1.572
316 Melton Borough Council @MeltonBC 657 1,127
328 Derbyshire Dales District Council @derbyshiredales 502 1,427

We also found some interesting examples that further point to this connection between activity and presence on Twitter. Fenland District Council who were an early adopter of Twitter appears at no.65 on our list (4,234 followers) compared to neighbouring South Holland, which appears at no.389 (24 followers). South Holland and Fenland have many common similarities. Fenland and South Holland have similar population sizes (91,000 and 76,000), demographic and economic make up. The difference does seem to be connected to their investment in social media. South Holland has never tweeted whilst Fenland has tweeted over 500 times.

North Devon, Mid Devon and Torridge also offer up a further interesting comparison. All are neighbouring rural district authorities with similar population sizes ranging from 65,000 – 91,000. North Devon appears at no. 78 on our list (3,796 followers) compared to Torridge at no.373 and Mid Devon at no.377 both with less than 200 followers. North Devon has however tweeted nearly 5,000 times and has dedicated tweeters compared to 220 and 26 tweets sent by Torridge and Mid Devon.

Fenland and North Devon, both with small rural populations demonstrate the possibilities of increasing reach in a cheap and easy way using social media. Our recent blog on 5 top tips for think tanks using social media has many transferable lessons for local government.  Some lessons from this piece of research for local councils could be:

  • Actively use social media – the more active you are, the more likely you are to build a community;
  • Engage in dialogue, don’t just broadcast;
  • Promote others and not just yourself. A good local council account is a repository of a range of community information and news;
  • Social media is personal – individuals who work for local councils are critical in extending reach and impact;
  • Think without limits: social media offers up endless possibilities.

Of course, only looking at the number of tweets and number of followers on the main local authority feed doesn’t provide a broader analysis of the effective use of social media by any authority. It doesn’t take account of quality of engagement or local population size in particular – and these are factors that we could incorporate into future analysis. Even so, it still provides some indication of local authorities’ take up of social media and offers some interesting insights and lessons. Your views on the results – and what further questions and analysis should be conducted (by us or others) – are welcome.


Local authorities on Twitter – the top 100

This is the fourth in a series of posts on local authorities’ use of Twitter. We’ve been counting down local authorities according to the size of their following – this post reveals the top 100 local authorities on Twitter.

As we’ve suggested here before, social media is a cheap and easy way to engage stakeholders, for think tankscentral governmenttrade bodies and directly elected mayors. We even think it could be used to open-up policy research and development, for example for local authorities to connect with their communities. So which local authorities are seizing the opportunities of social media the most, at least according to this quick bit of research? (Let us know if we’ve got anything wrong and we’ll correct it asap). Congratulations to the top tweeters, and in the next post we’ll review the results and offer some thoughts.

No. Local authority Twitter name No. of followers No. of tweets
1 Glasgow City Council @GlasgowCC 24,016 1,765
2 Edinburgh City Council @Edinburgh_CC 13,054 2,527
3 Newcastle upon Tyne City Council @NewcastleCC 11,992 5,521
4 Belfast City Council @belfastcc 11,639 6,444
5 Manchester City Council @ManCityCouncil 11,313 2,962
6 Cardiff City Council @cardiffcouncil 10,054 4,926
7 Nottingham City Council @MyNottingham 9,374 2,694
8 Leeds City Council @leedscc 9,161 1,838
9 Brighton and Hove City Council @BrightonHoveCC 8,718 7,573
10 Kent County Council @Kent_cc 8,664 2,782
11 Sunderland City Council @SunderlandUK 8,202 7,835
12 Sheffield City Council @SheffCouncil 7,665 5,870
13 Swansea City Council @SwanseaCouncil 7,657 2,750
14 Essex County Council @Essex_CC 7,624 2,481
15 Devon County Council @DevonCC 7,581 3,786
16 South Lanarkshire Council @SouthLanCouncil 7,076 2,471
17 Derbyshire County Council @Derbyshirecc 6,955 2,634
18 Hampshire County Council @hantsconnect 6,892 4,445
19 Fife Council @FifeCouncil 6,522 6,316
20 Norfolk County Council @NorfolkCC 6,484 2,387
21 Lambeth Council @lambeth_council 6,434 1,122
22 Salford City Council @SalfordCouncil 6,399 4,506
23 Birmingham City Council @BCCNewsRoom 6,345 5,747
24 Bristol City Council @BristolCouncil 6,102 1,930
25 Oxford City Council @OxfordCity 5,688 800
26 Nottinghamshire County Council @NottsCC 5,657 3,055
27 Kirklees Council @KirkleesCouncil 5,574 4,502
28 Lewisham Council @LewishamCouncil 5,411 1,967
29 Westminster City Council @CityWestminster 5,392 1,681
30 East Renfrewshire Council @EastRenCouncil 5,372 3,426
31 Cornwall County Council @CornwallCouncil 5,364 2,998
32 North Yorkshire County Council @northyorkscc 5,285 4,164
33 Camden Council @camdentalking 5,227 3,481
34 Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council @WalsallCouncil 5,214 12,949
35 Southampton City Council @SouthamptonCC 5,052 3,770
36 Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council @SolihullCouncil 5,030 4,285
37 Coventry City Council @coventrycc 5,014 1,676
38 Dorset Councils online (some Dorset authorities) @dorsetforyou 5,009 2,220
39 Derby City Council @DerbyCC 4,936 1,288
40 Greenwich Council @Royal_Greenwich 4,907 3,125
41 Renfrewshire Council @RenCouncilNews 4,895 1,898
42 Southwark Council @lb_southwark 4,821 1,695
43 Aberdeenshire Council @Aberdeenshire 4,814 2,832
44 Liverpool City Council @lpoolcouncil 4,801 696
45 Lancashire County Council @LancashireCC 4,790 3,500
46 Preston City Council @prestoncouncil 4,747 2,879
47 Bournemouth Borough Council @bournemouthbc 4,726 3,598
48 Wandsworth Borough Council @wandbc 4,673 2,355
49 Stirling Council @StirlingCouncil 4,671 3,061
50 Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council @RochdaleCouncil 4,613 1,703
51 Cheshire West and Chester Council @Go_CheshireWest 4,611 5,424
52 Stoke on Trent City Council @SoTCityCouncil 4,603 6,877
53 Wakefield City Council @MyWakefield 4,579 3,234
54 Hertfordshire County Council @hertscc 4,575 1,187
55 Surrey County Council @SurreyCouncil 4,534 6,585
56 Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council @TamesideCouncil 4,488 2,861
57 Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council @BoltonCouncil 4,479 1,757
58 Medway Council @medway_council 4,401 3,242
59 Staffordshire County Council @StaffordshireCC 4,358 3,637
60 Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council @StockportMBC 4,338 1,638
61 Hillingdon Council @Hillingdon 4,333 3,117
62 Lincoln City Council @lincolncouncil 4,307 3,512
63 Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council @GMBCouncil 4,284 1,363
64 Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council @sandwellcouncil 4,249 4,177
65 Fenland District Council @FenlandCouncil 4,234 534
66 Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council @WiganCouncil 4,211 5,424
67 Monmouthshire County Council @MonmouthshireCC 4,109 7,044
68 Norwich City Council @NorwichCC 4,065 958
69 Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council @OldhamCouncil 4,046 3,943
70 Warrington Borough Council @WarringtonBC 4,018 851
71 Dundee City Council @DundeeCouncil 4,010 521
72 Shropshire Council @ShropCouncil 3,965 5,133
73 York City Council @CityofYork 3,950 2,393
74 St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council @sthelenscouncil 3,886 9,514
75 Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council @stocktoncouncil 3,844 4,232
76 Durham County Council @DurhamCouncil 3,811 4,904
77 West Sussex County Council @WSCCNews 3,801 3,794
78 North Devon District Council @ndevoncouncil 3,796 4,950
79 Falkirk Council @falkirkcouncil 3,780 709
80 Vale of Glamorgan Council @VOGCouncil 3,774 1,944
81 Bury Metropolitan Borough Council @BuryCouncil 3,697 2,892
82 Blackpool Council @BpoolCouncil 3,544 3,438
83 Aberdeen City Council @AberdeenCC 3,479 3,741
84 Chorley Borough Council @ChorleyCouncil 3,466 2,303
85 Sutton Council @lbsuttonnews 3,447 2,561
86 Bracknell Forest Borough Council @BracknellForest 3,431 5,245
87 Lincolnshire County Council @LincolnshireCC 3,409 1,201
88 Suffolk County Council @suffolkcc 3,390 849
89 Barnet Council @BarnetCouncil 3,389 1,053
90 Gloucestershire County Council @GlosCC 3,333 2,133
91 Telford and the Wrekin Borough Council @TelfordWrekin 3,282 3,643
92 Hackney Council @hackneyliving 3,279 728
93 Croydon Council @yourcroydon 3,267 2,280
93 Northamptonshire County Council @mycountycouncil 3,267 2,162
95 Southend on Sea Borough Council @SouthendBC 3,215 2,359
96 Oxfordshire County Council @OxfordshireCC 3,201 886
97 Argyll and Bute Council @argyllandbute 3,189 1,360
97 Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council @Calderdale 3,189 1,372
99 Winchester City Council @WinchesterCity 3,151 6,963
100 Cumbria County Council @CumbriaCC 3,150 1,578



Local authorities on Twitter – 200 to 101

This is the third in a series of posts on local authorities’ use of Twitter. We’re counting down local authorities according to the size of their following, and then considering the results.

As we’ve suggested here before, social media is a cheap and easy way to engage stakeholders, for think tankscentral governmenttrade bodies and directly elected mayors. We even think it could be used to open-up policy research and development, for example for local authorities to connect with their communities. So which local authorities are seizing the opportunities of social media the most? (Let us know if we’ve got anything wrong and we’ll correct it asap).

No. Local authority Twitter name No. of followers No. of tweets
101 Leicester City Council @Leicester_News 3,142 4,820
102 Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council @blackburndarwen 3,135 2,452
103 East Sussex County Council @EastSussexCC 3,134 2,283
104 South Ayrshire Council @southayrshire 3,097 6,628
105 Burnley Borough Council @burnleycouncil 3,086 1,084
106 Cambridgeshire County Council @CambsCC 3,084 2,575
107 Pembrokeshire County Council @Pembrokeshire 3,074 2,382
108 Wolverhampton City Council @WolvesCouncil 3,066 2,464
109 Islington Council @IslingtonBC 3,040 1,567
110 Brent Council @Brent_Council 2,993 1,111
111 North Ayrshire Council @North_Ayrshire 2,991 2,029
112 Hammersmith and Fulham Council @LBHF 2,981 854
113 Wrexham County Borough Council @wrexhamcbc 2,956 4,476
114 Kingston upon Hull City Council @Hullccnews 2,935 2,283
115 East Ayrshire Council @EastAyrshire 2,875 2,031
116 Highland Council @HighlandCouncil 2,843 2,655
117 Orkney Islands Council @OrkneyCouncil 2,833 254
118 Harlow District Council @HarlowCouncil 2,830 629
119 Redbridge Council @RedbridgeLive 2,825 922
120 Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council @KnowsleyCouncil 2,803 2,270
121 Torfaen County Borough Council @torfaencouncil 2,768 1,663
122 Tunbridge Wells Borough Council @TWellsCouncil 2,736 946
123 South Ribble Borough Council @southribblebc 2,691 720
124 Peterborough City Council @PeterboroughCC 2,687 1,878
125 Reading Borough Council @ReadingCouncil 2,684 850
126 North East Lincolnshire Council @NELincs 2,655 1,131
127 Stratford on Avon District Council @StratfordDC 2,647 1,339
128 Maidstone Borough Council @maidstonebc 2,593 816
129 Bromley Council @LBofBromley 2,591 749
130 Braintree District Council @BraintreeDC 2,589 3,260
131 Richmond upon Thames Council @LBRUT 2,575 2,486
132 West Lothian Council @LoveWestLothian 2,559 4,776
133 Northumberland County Council @N_landCouncil 2,557 3,953
134 Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council @dudleymbc 2,536 2,091
135 Cheltenham Borough Council @CheltenhamBC 2,526 1,739
136 Exeter City Council @ExeterCouncil 2,524 805
137 Babergh District Council @BaberghDistrict 2,509 823
137 Torbay Council @Torbay_Council 2,509 2,403
137 Worcestershire County Council @worcscc 2,509 1,294
140 Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council @NPTCouncil 2,507 1,766
141 Lichfield District Council @Lichfield_DC 2,483 1,660
142 North Lincolnshire Council @NorthLincsCNews 2,472 2,831
143 Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council @TraffordCouncil 2,435 1,979
144 Warwickshire County Council @wcc_news 2,433 4,254
145 Borough of Poole @BoroughofPoole 2,405 1,050
146 Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council @WirralCouncil 2,399 963
147 Cannock Chase District Council @CannockChaseDC 2,368 3,166
148 Bath and North East Somerset Council @bathnes 2,334 3,107
149 Cherwell District Council @Cherwellcouncil 2,282 807
150 Windsor and Maidenhead Royal Borough Council @RBWM 2,278 2,117
151 Lancaster City Council @LancasterCC 2,276 1,262
152 North Somerset District Council @NorthSomersetC 2,267 1,188
153 Tower Hamlets Council @TowerHamletsNow 2,263 341
154 Chelmsford City Council @ChelmsCouncil 2,252 1,776
155 Ealing Council @EalingCouncil 2,245 797
156 Ispwich Borough Council @IspwichGov 2,244 607
157 Darlington Borough Council @darlingtonbc 2,228 4,518
158 Powys County Council @PowysCC 2,209 1,097
159 Perth and Kinross Council @PerthandKinross 2,207 1,526
160 Clackmannanshire Council @ClacksCouncil 2,199 1,653
161 Plymouth City Council @plymouthcc 2,188 2,406
162 Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council @barnsleycouncil 2,169 769
163 Pendle Borough Council @PendleBC 2,153 2,766
164 Thanet District Council @ThanetCouncil 2,129 749
165 Merton Council @Merton_Council 2,117 1,068
166 Thurrock Council @thurrockcouncil 2,113 1,032
167 Flintshire County Council @FlintshireCC 2,093 2,507
168 Wyre Borough Council @wyrecouncil 2,077 714
169 South Oxfordshire District Council @SouthOxon 2,064 736
170 Rugby Borough Council @rugbybc 2,037 1,704
171 City of London @cityoflondon 2,036 633
172 Wokingham Borough Council @WokinghamBC 2,029 1,574
173 Midlothian Council @midgov 2,026 1,012
174 Tandridge District Council @TandridgeDC 2,024 2,095
175 Dover District Council @DoverDC 2,014 691
176 North East Derbyshire District Council @nedDC 2,009 3,054
177 Caerphilly County Borough Council @CaerphillyCBC 1,996 2,528
178 East Lothian Council @ELCouncil 1,994 1,596
179 Newark and Sherwood District Council @NSDCouncil 1,992 1,117
180 Warwick District Council @Warwick_DC 1,988 799
181 Elmbridge Borough Council @ElmbridgeBC 1,984 3,231
182 Gwynedd County Council @CyngorGwynedd 1,984 2,950
183 Middlesbrough Council @MbroCouncil 1,975 644
184 Wycombe District Council @wycombedc 1,965 1,530
185 South Staffordshire District Council @south_staffs 1,955 1,821
186 Eastbourne Borough Council @EastbourneBC 1,948 4,959
187 Rother District Council @RotherDC 1,928 747
188 West Berkshire Council @WestBerkshire 1,923 4,904
189 North Hertfordshire District Council @NorthHertsDC 1,883 1,416
190 North Warwickshire Borough Council @North_Warks_BC 1,882 4,580
191 Bedford Borough Council @BedfordTweets 1,869 764
192 Swindon Borough Council @Swindonnews 1,852 328
193 Cheshire East Council @CheshireEast 1,842 736
194 Lewes District Council @LewesDC 1,837 686
195 Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council @BasingstokeGov 1,795 752
196 East Dunbartonshire Council @EDCouncil 1,787 806
197 South Derbyshire District Council @SDDC 1,784 2,175
198 North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council @NTCouncilTeam 1,768 1,448
199 Fylde Borough Council @fyldecouncil 1,765 4,056
200 Wealden District Council @wealdendistrict 1,758 172