News and press

Tuesday, 20th January 2009

Cheltenham Borough Council 'Delivers the Council that never closes' with Web 2.0

The emergence of social networking and Web 2.0 is providing major opportunities for councils to engage and empower their citizens.

A Web 2.0 strategy provides an important delivery mechanism for encouraging local decision making, a key aspect of the recent government White Paper 'Communities in Control: Real people, Real power'.

This aims to shift more power to communities and citizens; generate vibrant democracy and give citizens increased control over local decisions and services.

John Steed, Head of Service Development at Cheltenham Borough Council sees the Council's new web site and its Web 2.0 strategy as being at the core of Cheltenham's transformation.

"Our principal driver is the customer and our wish to be open, transparent and accessible. Access to information is power and social networking is at the core of this initiative. We are very keen that this should not just be a site for the council - it should be a site for Cheltenham that opens a dialogue with the visitor and provides a strong sense of place."

Cheltenham Borough Council is leading the way in delivering these vision and has recently replaced its web content management system and adopted a Web 2.0 strategy to enable this objective and to 'deliver the council that never closes'. Key criteria for this new initiative included the need to meet government accessibility standards and to provide systems that were easy to use, navigate and update for citizen and council staff.

To meet this challenge, Cheltenham selected Jadu CMS for its functionality and intuitive capabilities; a Web 2.0 strategy and Jadu Galaxies to support the management of satellite council offices such as Cheltenham Borough Homes which manages a number of separate sites for Council Housing.

"Jadu was the all round winner for richness in features, flexibility and functionality. It was also very intuitive to use for those building and maintaining the website. There has been massive enthusiasm for this project and we have had people queuing up to be content editors. Some CMS solutions dictate what the site will look like but not so with Jadu. The look and feel is entirely under our control," says John Steed.

Cheltenham initially discovered the power of Web 2.0 in July 2007, as a result of the flooding when the Council found that its old web site was not capable of responding to the flow of news and information that occurred. The Council set up a 'flood blog' to provide a responsive and fast service to residents and this was so successful that within hours they had an approach from BBC Radio Five Live for an interview.

This initial development has triggered widespread adoption of Web 2.0 by Council staff and the public. This however requires a very different approach to finding information and Jadu is working with Cheltenham to enable this new way of working.

Suraj Kika, CEO of Jadu says, "The Cheltenham website will break a mould with how Local Government engages with its customers on the web. The site focuses on delivering actual content generated by members of the community who really have something to say or something to show. You can publish images to the Cheltenham Flickr feed and movies through the Cheltenham YouTube channel - directly to the Council's site, all controlled via the CMS."

"We can no longer expect people to come to us, we have to go to where they are talking. We already have a lot of content on Flickr and we also want to exploit YouTube. People may never visit our site but they will know about its content. This is a very different approach and Jadu is enabling us to achieve this," says John Steed.