Pledgebank in the press

One of the recent pledges on Barnet Pledgebank asked residents to buy a Christmas gift for one of the borough’s young carers. The council offered to collect donated gifts from local libraries and deliver them to the Barnet Young Carers and Siblings centre for distribution. As reported in the local press more than 80 Christmas gifts were donated by members of the public and staff, which means there will be a few extra smiles on Christmas morning.

This is a great example of how Pledgebank can work.

This winter, the council wants to encourage community minded residents to come together with their neighbours and clear their pavements of ice and snow.

The borough has already had a its first few flakes of snow and while I hope the weather doesn’t deteriorate any further, the recent cold snap is a timely reminder to prepare for the possibility of more substantial snowfall.

The council made an offer on Barnet Pledgebank  to help residents clear snow by providing grit and spreading equipment. The pledge has proved popular with local people, who have signed-up to grit more than 20 streets in the borough. Is your street on the list? Is this something you could help with?

I know that some people are concerned they might be legally liable if a passer-by falls on a patch of pavement they’ve recently cleared, so to remove any doubt, the council has also provided insurance cover.

Barnet made a similar pledge to encourage parents to clear snow from their children’s schools by offering the same support. This idea has also appealed to volunteers and the original target of 25 schools has already been achieved.

Why not have a think about what you could do? Is there something you can offer your community? Is there a local project you want to get started? Why not use PledgeBank to make it happen?

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New website, new approach

I’ve just seen the latest version of the draft design templates for the new Barnet website and I’m very pleased with how the site is developing.

I’m confident that the new website will be easier to use and simpler to navigate than the existing site as the new design is cleaner and the content has been structured in a more straightforward manner. The designs are currently still in draft form but I will share them once they have been fully signed off and approved.

One of the main reasons for redeveloping the website is to make online transactions easier to access and simpler to use. The focus on bringing transactions online is a reflection of the changing way residents access both public and private sector services.

It wasn’t that long ago that banking transactions had to take place before 3.30pm on a Friday but nowadays I can do my banking 24 hours a day, on the move or at home and I’m able to use a device that simply didn’t exist two years ago.

We can provide a better, more efficient service for residents by allowing them to access more services online, at their convenience.

But as well as providing a more efficient transactional website, the redevelopment of Barnet Online will allow the council to focus on becoming more open and transparent.

As has been discussed elsewhere, the council receives a large number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and responding to them takes up a lot of officer time, time that would be better spent on the core activities of their jobs. We can greatly reduce this burden on council time and resources by publishing more council data and making it easier to find.

We may also encourage more residents to actively engage with the council. At the moment, being an armchair auditor requires a dogged determination. There aren’t many people who would want to spend their social hours trolling through committee papers and expense reports looking for anomalies.

By making more information – previous FOI requests, details of allowances and expenses, copies of contract and tender documents, committee minutes and decisions, performance data etc – more freely available we will allow those residents with less free time to find out more about how the council, councillors and council run services are performing.

And contrary to what you might have read elsewhere, council services are performing extremely well:

  • 81 per cent of resident are ‘most happy’ with refuse collection
  • 73 per cent of residents with experience of secondary schools describe them as ‘good or excellent’
  • Adult Social Services are rated as ‘excellent’ by the Care Quality Commission
  • Children’s Services are rated as ‘excellent’ by Ofsted.

..and in many ways these are the key services residents care about.

Barnet has nothing to hide, so I’m very keen that we make as much information about the council as easy to access as possible and the new website is the ideal vehicle to deliver on this transparency agenda.

In the New Year we will be looking at how we can better present performance data in ways that is genuinely helpful to residents. If anyone has an opinion on how information should be presented, I’d be interested in hearing your views.