Stoke-on-Trent on DCMS shortlist for super fast broadband

Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport has announced that Stoke-on-Trent is on the short list for the next round of funding for Superfast Broadband, eligible cities will be able to bid for a share of a £50m pot of money to help them roll out ultrafast-broadband to become Super-Connected driving growth and attracting new investment. Continue reading

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s leader to hold live budget web chat

A live online forum will give residents the chance to pose their questions on this year’s budget proposals to Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s leader, Councillor Mohammed Pervez.

Residents with suggestions, thoughts or concerns about the proposals are being encouraged to join the discussion which takes place online on Monday December 19, 2011 between 5:30pm and 7pm. Ҭ

Councillor Pervez, said

This is an opportunity for the city’s residents to let me know what issues are concerning them and to find out what people think of our proposals. I would encourage people to get involved with the discussion as the decisions we are making have an impact on everyone in the city. “¨”¨We want to involve as many people as possible in these decisions and by taking our consultation process into the 21st Century through the internet we can target a different group of people as well as our face to face consultations around the city.

The web chat follows the as yet unconfirmed extention to the public consultation period for the 2012 budget.

People can also submit their budget questions before the live webchat by emailing webteam@stoke.gov.uk. While not all questions will be answered live a response will be sent. If further information is required to provide a response, then an answer will be emailed on a later date. Questions should be about the budget proposals although other questions may be answered if time permits.

Councillor Pervez added

The council has been working hard to put together the budget for next year, in the face of fierce Government-imposed cuts of around £8m.

On top of this, we must deal with unavoidable cost pressures such an inflation, contractual staff increments, procurement and the payback for our capital projects totalling around £11m.

In our Mandate for Change, launched earlier this year, we said we would create a ‘great working city’. Our aim for this budget is to help to do just that, by saving to invest.

I am very much looking forward to hearing your views on the budget and the future of Stoke-on-Trent.

This webchat is an exciting opportunity for us as a city council to hear directly from the people who use our services and I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to our budget consultation. Your participation is very important to us.

To become part of the discussion residents can access the forum on Monday by using the link below visiting and following the simple instructions.

 Pits n Pots ran the first Ask The leader web chat a little over 12 months ago.

Fly The Flag Or Ban The Burkha? ““ Beware The Far Right Internet Warriors

Here we are on the brink of one of the greatest sports events, the football World Cup and the far right just can’t leave us alone to enjoy it can they?

The far right have an army of media police who trawl the Internet looking for stories that they can put a far right spin on and create uproar on internet/newspaper forums.

No finer example of this was the recent national story relating to the urban myth perpetrated by the far right that pub landlords were to prevent customers from entering licensed premises wearing England football shirts and to prevent them being served in pubs where the World Cup matches were being shown.

The story was incorrect and eventually the police had to come out with media statements clarifying their position. By this time of course the far rights internet warriors had whipped and spun the story beyond comprehension. There was even a massive Facebook group opposing the so called ban.

Locally of course we have had the bogus story of the “Ëœmum’ who was allegedly ordered of a First Bus because her young son was wearing an England shirt. The driver was of “Ëœeastern European’ origin supposedly.

Again, no credible witness to the story was found and First Bus concluded that the incident had never happened.

The story provoked a large response on the Sentinel website and it was clear that a large proportion of the commenters were of a far right persuasion. The comments were eventually closed.

I have spoken to a fair few in the Asian communities who have absolutely no issue with people flying the flag any time let alone during a World Cup. Indeed I have also seen a few “Ëœcross of St George’ flags flying in Normacott.

I reckon most of the Asian communities are supporting England at this World Cup, especially those who were born and were educated in this country.

OK, they might support Pakistan during the Cricket World Cup but this is no different to someone who supports Wales in the Rugby Union 6-Nations because their parents were born in Wrexham [yes I know that man!]. The far right love to make out there is an issue with Asian communities being “Ëœoffended’ by displays of nationalism, but in my humble experience this is just not the case.

I have started to see the far right Internet warriors start to call for the wearing of the Burkha to be banned in public places. This follows the recent debates in France and Belgium where they are considering a law against Islamic veils.

The Burkha is not a religious requirement and I can understand that in some circumstances they could be considered inappropriate, in particular a court of law for instance.

There are quite a few examples of where, in my opinion, it would be wrong to be allowed to wear a veil that covers the whole of the face, when visiting a doctor or nurse for example. I also think that it would be difficult to conduct a job interview with a candidate who was wearing a burkha or a similar garment.

There will be a debate in this country at some point I would guess. But I would hope that the discussion would be open and honest rather than the far right being allowed to hijack the issue to attack on race or religious grounds.

I think the recent general election proved to our mainstream parties that the public demands real debate on immigration and other issues and that debates that have been considered sensitive in the past may well be forced out into the open.

Only by demonstrating that issues such as nationalism, immigration, cultural differences and diversities can be debated in a fair non inflammatory manner, can the hate fuelled and non tolerant tactics of the far right be defeated.

That said, bring on the World Cup. I for one will be shouting for my team from the roof tops”¦.. COME ON ENGLAND!!

Underperforming Website Costing The Council Money

According to a recent survey by the Society of Information Technology Management, 21% of people visiting council websites across the country failed to find what they had visited the site for and a further 21% only found part of the information they were looking for.

The survey was carried out on the websites of 120 councils during September 09, during the survey 7.3 million unique visitors visited the websites.

With variations for different types of council like Shire & County, this equates to something like 20,000 unhappy visitors per council per month. If each one of the 20,000 people who were not able to find the information they wanted on a council website then decided to speak to a real person to get the information, assuming that it costs something like £2.50 as an average per call or face to face meeting in a local centre this would cost a staggering £50,000 per month for just one council. If you scale this up to all the councils in the UK that is something like 4.4 million failures that cost £11 million per month to service in other ways.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council was one of the councils that was part of the survey as they subscribe to the SOTICM service. Figures for individual councils have not been released, but I have done some calculations based on the survey findings against the reported visitors to stoke.gov.uk.

The council have not updated their website statistics since August 2009 (So I am now one of the 21%!) so it is impossible to use exact figures but I have used this table to calculate an average number of visitors for the 8 months data supplied for 2009.

This gives me a figure of 124,598 which I have used for this calculation. Looking at the trending of the visitors I think this is possibly a little high but all I have to work on.

Using the survey findings that 21% of visitors to the stoke.gov.uk website in September didn’t find the information they were looking for, means there are 26,166 people who need to be dealt with by other means to satisfy their requests.

If each one of these visitors then turned to a more expensive form of getting the information they wanted (unlikely I know)such as phoning the council or going to a local centre, using the £2.50 notional costing it is costing the city £65,415 each month because the council has such a poor website. If a portfolio holder went to the Council Leader on Monday and said they could save £400,000 I’m sure they would have their hand snapped off. £400k is only about half of what I have estimated the council are wasting over the year.

By investing in a better website the council could not only save money by not having to deal with these extra requests but could move a number of people away from the more expensive means of getting information. These people are people who have probably tired and failed to do things on the council website in the past and now just go directly to the phone or their Local Centre.

The survey also found that the web was the most important channel for customer interaction during the survey period.
70% of customer interactions came from the website
17% came from the telephone
13% from face-to-face

The web is also the least satisfactory channel for customers.
42% of visitors rate it as poor, compared with
21% of face-to-face visitors
And just 2% of callers by phone.

The main reason for dissatisfaction is failure of visitors to find what they are looking for.

While I was researching this piece I found that the website statistics that are being published look a little odd, in December 2008 a reported 79,470 unique users accessed the site yet in January 2009 this had risen by some 72% to 136,794 unique visitors.

I am not entirely sure how the figures are derived but I have asked for clarification.

Build your own blog!

By Mike Rawlins

Birmingham based Talk About Local are running a pilot session on Monday between 1700 & 1900 at Live and Learn Land in Burslem (see poster below for more details)  for people who want to set up their own local blogs.

William Perrin founder of Talk About Local said “Talk About Local is a project to give people in their communities a powerful online voice.  We want to help people communicate and campaign more effectively to influence events in the places in which they live, work or play.   A good, modern voice on the web can help communities communicate better, become more active and empowered.  Community websites and forums make it easier for people to become involved in changing their area.  The web can lower the barriers to finding basic information and make it easier to have your voice heard.”

More details about the project can be found on their website at talkaboutlocal.org

ARE YOU ABOUT TO BE FIRED FOR FACEBOOK?

Michelle Kendal

Michelle Kendal

By Michelle Kendal [Contributed Article]

Social networking is more popular than ever, but is it becoming less sociable?

Privacy has been a hot topic recently, with a of number data CDs and files being lost, the government’s proposals to make everyone carry an ID card and now the controversy surrounding Google Street view.

But what about your personal privacy online?

Most internet users will be aware of trojans, viruses and spyware and are versed in not opening suspicious emails or giving out personal details over the web, but it seems when it comes to social networking we do not use the same caution.

Facebook has over 175 million users worldwide, that’s about three times the population of Britain, and can be viewed in 42 different languages. Default settings for a new profile allow your page to be viewed by anyone; privacy settings are available but they are not very easy to find and are confusing to say the least. Social media analyst Dr Marriann Harding says they even go beyond just blocking people who are not your friends, “In 2005 there were barely any privacy settings, you could opt in and out of peoples networks and identify them as your friends and that was as far as it went, now you can have it up to a level where you can say this one particular person I don’t want to see my wall post and this person, I do.”

The issue of privacy has been highlighted recently through a number of cases where people have found themselves sacked from their job for things they have written or posted on the internet. It seems the term “Ëœbringing the company into disripute’ can now stretch to saying you are bored at work in your Facebook status. Keith Puttick, a principal lecturer in Law at Staffordshire University says “If they (the employer) choose to call it gross misconduct, that person is in a lot of trouble.”

Kimberley Swann, a 16 year-old office worker from Essex found herself in exactly that position – she was sacked in February for calling her job at Ivell Marketing & Logistics “Ëœboring’. The page was shown to her bosses, by a colleague she had accepted as a friend, who decided the “disrespect “¦ undermined the relationship” between them and terminated her contract.

Miss Swann is certainly not alone, high profile cases have been reported across the internet, from Virgin Atlantic staff to workers for American football teams who have criticised their job, customers or bosses. It’s happening closer to home too; at the end of last year three nurses from Trentham lost their jobs after writing comments about needing a break from work on Facebook and more recently a Keele student nurse received an official warning after a post she made on a friend’s page.

The comments are often not much more than anyone would say to their friends and collegues after a few drinks; but because it is put in a permanent form on the internet, the rules are very different. According to Mr Puttick “When you look at it from the employer’s point of view they may not see it that way, what they see, perhaps, is a remark that is denegrating to the company.”

Facebooks terms and conditions state “All content”¦ including text, graphics, pictures, [and] video”¦ are the proprietary property of the Company”. This means that for every photo that is posted, the owner gives up any right to state how this picture is used. Not many people would worry about this, but for those who occasionally over-indulge on a night out, the photos become someone else’s property and this cannot be undone. If the subject of these pictures is in a position of trust, such as a teacher or social worker, they could easily be used as a basis for dismissal.

Whether it is right or wrong to be dismissed for things you do in your own personal time, it’s becoming more common, so next time you log on remember that a throw-away comment may not be so easily disposed of.

If you have been affected by any of these issues, please get in touch with me – michellekendall@live.co.uk or michelle.kendall@focalradio.com