This month:

  • The top 20 UK councils for new online buzz
  • Spotlights stories:
    • Lewes District Council: Exploding parking meters and a community success story
    • Oxford City Council: Outcry over taxi CCTV proposals
    • Newcastle City Council: Council defy the renaming of St James Park
    • Buzz and Media Mix – News v Blogs v Twitter etc

 

The Top 20

These are the councils that have seen the biggest increases in the volume of online buzz they are attracting. The biggest movers (subject to them attaining a minimum number of references during the month – Districts = 100 mentions, Counties and Unitaries = 300) for this month are:

Spotlight stories

Now let’s take a look at some of the stories behind the buzz…

Lewes District Council: Exploding parking meters and a community success story

Graph showing Lewes District Council social media mentions during November, spiking on 24th November following the parking meter attacks.

The town of Lewes has again been targeted by vandals who are delighting in blowing up parking meters in protest against parking charges.

The campaign started in 2004 after Lewes District Council introduced on-street parking charges to ease congestion in the narrow streets. After a period of peace, it now it appears that parking wars have broken out again, with one machine completely destroyed.

The story was quickly picked up by the national press, obviously tickled by the thought of rebellious, firework-wielding Lewesians taking matters into their own hands.  More interesting to us, however, was the discussion on the community website lewes.co.uk.

At a time when many community websites have found themselves utterly overtaken by more current forms of social media – such as Facebook and Twitter – lewes.co.uk has bucked the trend and appears relevant and well used.

In the days following the attacks, the site’s forum hosted several discussions about the parking problems faced by the town, and how to solve them. Although a certain amount of council-bashing is probably inevitable in such spaces, the majority of the debate was well-informed and remained focussed on possible solutions.

So what has kept lewes.co.uk flourishing while others have languished?

In part it is the content – alongside the old stalwarts of community sites (think forums, free ads, and event calendars) the site also boasts live a twitter feed, property pages pulling content from RightMove, last minute hotel deals served by LateRooms, ticket booking, and up-to-date business listings. Perhaps a strong sense of community and a ‘keeping it local’ ethos is also a factor.

Either way, a successful community site can be fantastic asset to the local area by promoting local businesses, supporting tourism and also as a platform of consultation. Local councils would do well to look to their community sites and see how they can support them.

Lewes.co.uk hosted discussions on solving parking problems in the town.

Oxford City Council: Outcry over taxi CCTV proposals

The world of social media is always excited by any talk of sinister Big Brother goings-on. This month Oxford City Council caused almost universal outcry when it announced plans to place closed circuit television cameras inside all its licensed taxis by 2015. It is believed to be the first such scheme to record sound as well as images.

The national press took hold of the story on 14th November, and the reports typically led with led with the vociferous opposition to the scheme by civil liberties campaigners. The news spread quickly on Twitter, and Oxford City Council was mentioned in over 200 separate tweets about the story, generally in a negative light.

The council’s own statement highlighted that the move had been designed to improve safety and had been drawn up in consultation with taxi drivers, and that the recordings would be encrypted and only accessible in the event of a police investigation, or an investigation into a complaint against a driver.

However, although the statement appeared on its website, the council failed to tweet a reference to it, or engaged in any dialogue on Twitter. It also seems not to have proactively promoted the statement on its Facebook page, only responding two days later when appears that offensive messages had been posted and subsequently removed.

Oxford City Council’s only response in social media to the CCTV taxi story

Given that the story was always going to be controversial, it seems a shame that the Council did not take the lead in promoting its own position in social media, before it was overtaken by the voices of opposition.

Newcastle City Council: Council defy the renaming of St James Park
November might not have been a great month for Oxford City Council in terms of social media sentiment, but Newcastle City Council can relish the satisfaction of having taken a hugely popular stance.

When Newcastle United announced that St James’ Park – home to Newcastle United – was to be renamed the “Sports Direct Arena” for commercial reasons, fans were absolutely horrified. On the 10th November, NCC made an official statement in opposition to the decision, recognising that changing the name “without consultation, will upset the overwhelming majority of fans who loyally support the team” and went on to state that it “has no plans to change any existing wayfinding signs which bear the name St James’ Park.” Hundreds of Tweets and retweets supporting the Council’s decision then followed:

The council’s decision not to support the renaming of St James Park was hugely popular

Buzz and Media Mix

Next, this month’s total references to ‘Councils’ online is:

This month sees an increase in buzz, driven by some big stories featuring some our selected councils – Cardiff (man admits murder of council worker), Glasgow (Unite workers at GCC back strike) and Essex (teenager fights to save care home).

This uptick is reflected in all of the different sources.


Notes

PublicServiceMonitor images and chart data may be used provided PublicServiceMonitor is credited accordingly.

For a more comprehensive service description please look at www.publicservicemonitor.com/about

Monthly Buzz Index methodology – Details can be found here

About PublicServiceMonitor – PublicServiceMonitor trawls the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week, searching through news, blogs, forums and social media sites. It reads through all of this information and summarises what’s being said about UK councils, and can even tell you whether the sentiment is positive or negative (similar to the election worm we have seen at #leadersdebate). The service was launched in December 2009 so is still quite early on, but by measuring a benchmark group of councils on a consistent basis we hope to be able to provide some national trend information relating to what people are saying about their councils – and how they choose to say it.

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