At recent parish council meetings the legal requirement for the council to make information publicly available from a website has been re-raised several times. The transparency code for smaller authorities (2014) states:
“The data and information specified in this Code must be published on a website which is publicly accessible free of charge. ”Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities 2014
Certain long-term councillors have suggested that the reason the Alverdiscott & Huntshaw Parish Council has failed to meet this legal requirement is because the council didn’t have a website. This is not accurate and fails to acknowledge the hard work carried out by the previous council chairman, Mr Dave Dalzell, sadly deceased.
An online resource that may be of interest to some people is the Wayback Machine.
This is an entirely free online archive of discovered web sites and pages. Simply enter a domain name into the form and it will tell you what it has previously discovered from the site. Here’s the timeline showing dates on which content from the official Alverdiscott & Huntshaw parish council domain (alverdiscott-huntshaw-parish.org.uk/) was collected and saved to the archive.
Clicking on any of the highlighted dates provides access to the various snapshots which were taken at that time.
2010 Website Status
The first snapshot from 2010 looks like this.
This simply reflects the fact that, way back in 2010 the Alverdiscott & Huntshaw parish council registered the domain name with the UK based 123-reg service. This demonstrates how the forward thinking parish council at that time was preparing for imminent online requirements.
2014 Website Status
Jump forward to 2014 and we can see website snapshots like this.
As stated on the website home page at this time, Torridge District Council recognised that parish councils would benefit from implementing websites in order to communicate with communities and importantly, to enable councils to comply with the legal transparency requirements. The following excerpt from the 2014 website acknowledges the requirement to comply with the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.
And here’s the list of parish councillors at the time when the parish council website was established.
As can be seen, several of these councillors, who were fully aware of the work carried out by Dave Dalzell to establish the required website, remain on the council today.
2016 / 2017 Website Status
Clicking through the website snapshots available from the Wayback machine it’s apparent that the council website was actively maintained up until early 2017. Sadly, Dave Dalzell passed away in 2016 and this appears to have been the reason why the website was subsequently not maintained.
Website Status 2018 – 2019
The parish council meeting minutes don’t appear to mention the council website until May 2018 when this entry appears.
Unfortunately, there was no progress with the council website throughout 2018 and into 2019.
Website Resurrection 2019
As noted, subsequent to the death of Dave Dalzell, a widely respected and hard working council chairman, the council website fell into disuse. The lack of attention almost resulted in the council losing the long established, official domain name: alverdiscott-huntshaw-parish.org.uk. Luckily, this was re-registered by councillor Colin Webber in July 2019, preventing it’s loss.
Between September and October 2019 newly co-opted councillor Tony Goldstone rebuilt the council website, restoring much of the content that had originally been compiled by Dave Dalzell. The new website was built to comply with current mobile accessibility requirements, enabling those using smartphones to readily access the site.
Transparency Code Requirements
When rebuilding the website the requirements of the transparency code for smaller authorities were clarified. These define the information that councils are required to publish, the frequency of publication and the manner in which data is required to be made available to the public. Here’s a summary of what’s supposed to be made publicly available for each financial year.
- Details of all items of expenditure above £100 along with dates of purchases and purposes.
- End of year accounts in the required format.
- Annual governance statement, signed by the chairman and parish clerk. Any negative responses should be fully explained and include details of how weaknesses will be addressed.
- Internal auditor’s report.
In addition the council is required to publish:
- List of all councillor or member responsibilities.
- Details of public land and building assets.
- Draft minutes from all formal meetings – to be published not later than one month after the meeting.
Method of Publication
The transparency code for smaller authorities makes it clear that all of this information must be published on a website which publicly accessible free of charge.
At a full parish council meeting held at the Alverdiscott village hall on 11th March 2020 the requirements of the transparency code were raised and the necessary financial documents were specifically requested. But this request and the discussion regarding compliance with the transparency code were completely omitted from the meeting minutes. Furthermore, neither the parish clerk, nor any of the long-term parish councillors, mentioned the fact that the Alverdiscott and Huntshaw Parish Council was effectively sanctioned by external auditors due to failure to submit statutory Annual Governance and Accountability returns for 2017/18 and 2018/19.
The intention is to make the Alverdiscott & Huntshaw Parish Website fully compliant with the requirements of the transparency code. This means that all historic financial records need to be found and published along with the reasons why this council failed to submit Annual Governance and Accountability returns in previous years.
Key Points Summary
- The alverdiscott-huntshaw-parish.org.uk/ domain was registered back in 2010.
- Promoted and supported by Torridge District Council, Dave Dalzell established the council website in 2013/14.
- Sadly, Chairman Dalzell passed away in 2016 and the website became unmaintained in 2017.
- Councillor Colin Webber managed to re-establish ownership of the domain name in July 2019.
- Councillor Goldstone rebuilt the website in Sept./Oct. 2019.
- Although statutory financial documents were requested at a full council meeting in March 2020 none of these have yet been provided so the website is not yet compliant with statutory legal requirements.