Should we liven up Council reports?

The public are often short of time and live in a world where they can view almost anything they want from a little screen that fits in their pocket. Local government also needs these very same people to be 'active participants' in democracy in order for a healthier and more informed democracy to function. With this in mind why is it that reports for all manner of Council meetings that are of the upmost importance to local people consist of page after page of solid text that can often be worded in a very technical and dull manner.

Whilst it may be that the reports need to contain a lot of information and need to be factual and technical there should be no reason why information cannot be provided in a much more visual and interactive fashion. More use of inforgraphics should be made, these would make information much easier to digest and can convey a lot of information to a member of the public very quickly. A good example of this is the following inforgraphic which explores the data behind lost UK passports:

There are free and easy to use tools that facilitate this kind of graphic. In addition to this a number of other tools could be utilised to improve the usability and accesibility of council reports. For example use Could be made of YouTube videos. Reports could have embedded in them videos of the relevant Scrutiny chair giving his view on the report or a montage of community groups whose input has been sought during the report. Perhaps reports could also contain a twitter handle that members of the public could tweet questions to on the subject in question. 

I would be interested in learning from others and would welcome suggestions on how long wordy technical reports could be improved so that members of the public are able to engage with them.


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Alex Marshall 5 Years Ago
Tom One easy way to liven up Council reports might be to use some graphics from LG Inform. LG Inform is the LGA’s free data service which presents you with up-to-date published data about your local area and the performance of your council You can build a report in LG Inform using the metrics held in the system, add your own contextual information and then either share it as a pdf or you can embed your report on to your website. Some examples of embedded reports are shown in the links below 1. Barnet’s is a great page, as they have the charts shown but they example the Councils spend and reason behind the figures so is really easy for anyone to use. 2. Coventry have maps from several sources, including LG Inform and have links to their work and plans all in one place, making it a really useful resource for people to go to. If you are interested in embedding a report in LG Inform, there is a guide here to show you how to do it Essentially you need to build a report and when you save it you need to select the option ‘Save and publish’, then you can share your report with the public, this means LG Inform will then give you the option to share your report through social media or you can get the code to embed your report. You can also share reports through social media tools such as twitter as show in the examples below 20/02/2014 Martin Curtis ?@CllrMCurtis Principal roads where maintenance should be considered in Cambridgeshire | LG Inform … 27/02/2014 Richard Stay ?@StayRC Crime - Total offences (offences per 1,000 population) - quarterly in Central Bedfordshire | LG Inform … 28/02/2014 Tim Adams ?@DrTimAdams #Blackpool energy use should be high but @BpoolCouncil is one of the best unitary councils for recent CO2 emissions. … I hope this is of interest, more details are in the LG Inform Knowledge hub group or you can always e-mail the team at Thanks Alex
Ian Carbutt 5 Years Ago
Great blog Tom, FYI, Harlow have shared a case study about their council reports and how they use LG Inform components in them. You can find more details here The Barnet approach Alex mentions above is developing too. Ian
Tom Hancock 5 Years Ago
Thank you both for your comments. I really am enthused about the LG inform tool, I also particualrly like that it is LGA backed as this will help the credibility of any push to introduce infographic type images into reports and I am particularly happy to see that it is being used elsewhere. The examples you have posted are exactly the kind of thing I would like to see as standard and will be sure to make the case for it at my local authority. Thank you both.