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.


One Barnet Partnership Board minutes

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the minutes from the One Barnet Partnership Board would be made public.

The One Barnet Partnership Board brings together representatives from key public sector bodies in Barnet – the council, NHS Barnet, Middlesex University, Job Centre plus and the Metropolitan Police – to discuss important issues that affect the lives of our residents.

The minutes from the last meeting are now available on Barnet’s website.

Barnet budget infographic

The council has released an infographic to illustrate how money will be spent over the coming year. The image will help people to visualise how the budget is allocated to the different areas of the council.

Of course, the council has also released more detailed spending data, but the infographic has been created to make this complex set of figures easier to digest.

Barnet has made a commitment to be more transparent and providing information in a more visual form is just one way that we can follow through on this promise.

I’m keen to find out what you think of the infographic and to find out what other ways you would like to see information presented.

View the Barnet budget infographic

One Barnet Partnership Board minutes to be made public

The One Barnet Partnership Board is a group that’s made up of senior representatives from Barnet’s key public sector organisations, such as the council, the police, the NHS and education bodies. The board meets every two to three months to jointly agree a shared strategy for the borough, oversee a programme of work to turn this strategy into action, and ensure we provide better, more accessible services to Barnet residents.

Following feedback I’ve received from the One Barnet Overview and Scrutiny Panel it has been decided that minutes from the One Barnet Partnership Board will be published online. This decision was wholeheartedly supported by the board.

This means that meetings of the One Barnet Partnership Board will be subject to the same level of public scrutiny as other council meetings. This is as it should be. It is important that what we do is open and transparent because, ultimately, we are working for Barnet citizens.

I will add a link to the next set of One Barnet Partnership Board meeting minutes when they are published.