Parish Council and Town Council websites

Attention, all those looking for a new Parish Council and Town Council website or just trying to get the up to date information on what are the new regulations that you now have to follow, you have come to the right place!

Not only is it now a requirement for every Parish and Town Council to have a website there are many laws and regulations stating how they should be produced and presented.

In our Parish Council and Town Council website article, we will take you through some of the new rules that your websites must conform to.

Smaller Parish Councils are most likely to create a website simply to provide local information, so they are not likely to come up against the laws concerning e-commerce, e-marketing, and so on. But there will still be issues to take into account such as accessibility, copyright, defamation and domain name laws.

Accessibility

If you have an existing Parish Council and Town Council website which uses PDFs, this will have to change. You are advised to publish in HTML format wherever possible. A PDF will most likely make your content hard to find, use and maintain. Furthermore, websites with PDF documents work badly with assistive technologies – rendering your Parish Council and Town Council website inaccessible, going against the Equality Act of 2010. So although you can still retain your PDFs they have to be as an addition rather than the only way to access information.

Website providers must make “reasonable adjustments” to the way in which services are offered to enable the disabled to use them. There is useful information on these regulations on the following websites:

RNIB (www.rnib.org.uk)

Disability Rights Commission (www.drc-gb.org)

W3 WAI – The Website Accessibility Initiative (www.w3.org/WAI/)

DDA and Web Accessibility – A summary of the effects of the Disability Discrimination Act on websites from Webcredible (www.webcredible.co.uk)

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has created presentation slides which provide a brief summary of the regulations and some actions to help local councils in their preparations.

Public sector websites (which includes all Parish Council and Town Council websites) which were published before 23 September 2018 should have been compliant by 23 September 2020. All public sector mobile applications will need to be compliant by 23 June 2021. As developments arise, NALC will provide more information on website accessibility.

The Government Digital Service recently published guidance for smaller organisations doing a basic accessibility check, here.

Simple Language

It is important to keep the language on your parish council and town council websites clear and simple. This makes your website more accessible to those with cognitive impairments and learning disabilities. Further, it is proven that people just do prefer simple language, regardless of expertise or speciality, as it allows visitors to your websites to understand and process information quickly.

Alongside keeping the language simple, your Parish Council and Town Council website should be structured clearly. Recommendations include putting in:

* A meaningful title

* Short sentences

* Arial or Helvetica font

* Sentence casing

* Aligned text,

and to avoid underlining. It is important to be as clear as possible when instructing visitors to your Parish Council and Town Council website – for example, using colour as an instruction and meaning will not be helpful to colour-blind visitors.

Structural Equality

It is important to break up your website into readable sections such as numbered steps, bullet points, and informative subheadings. You want the reader of your Parish Council and Town Council website to read and consume your content correctly, which is enabled by the proper use of bullet lists and styles.

Copyright

Though the internet can be a bit of a ‘Wild West’ so far as copyright is concerned, in essence, online copyright law works in very much the same way as off-line law.

A website is viewed in English Law as a collection of copyright works, and literary copyright protects website text, as well as HTML and programme code. Artistic copyright protects images and photos, and this is perhaps the most misunderstood issue. You cannot for instance use an image you find on the internet on your website without clearing the copyright.

Copyright also covers music, databases, and more.

The main legislation affecting copyright is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Defamation

The law of defamation protects both company’s and individuals’ overs reputation. Defamation may be a particular issue if your Parish Council or Town Council website has a forum, chatroom, or blog section, as the webmaster may not have control over what is posted by third parties. One approach to this is to have a disclaimer on the website which states that views or statements made by non-members of the council on the website are not necessarily views held by the council. It is also helpful to have a Terms and Conditions section on your website. However, this does not remove the necessity for the webmaster to keep a careful eye on what is being shared.

Domain

As Parish and Town councils are essentially part of local government, they may choose to have a .gov.uk domain name. There are rules laid down by central government to ensure that only central, county, district, and local government can use them. The registration process may take longer, and it may cost more. You can get more information from the following link:http://www.archive.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/e-government/resources/handbook/html/1-9-2.asp

Conclusion

If you are instructed to renovate your Parish Council and Town council website, clarity is of utmost importance.

At one2one Digital we are expects in creating websites for many sectors including Parish and Town Councils.

We can provide you with expect advise to ensure that the transition to your new Parish Council or Town Council website is smooth and professional. Ensuring that your website is rid of PDFs, plus make sure the language, the font, the titles are clear, that navigation is easy to follow and the overall structure of the website is not only compliant but attractive.

Pricing is always important, in particular, if you are a small Parish Council or Town Council with limited spare funds available, as expects in creating Parish and Town Council websites we can not only get your new website up and running fast, but at a very reasonable cost. Give us a call and let’s discuss further.