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Vicky is programme director Connected Local Government, a regular host on CLGdotTV programmes and has served public sector IT for more than 25 years

@vickysargent

National picture of local election results to be made freely available online as results are declared

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© SecretLondon - London Count Havering and Redbridge May 2008

Local election results for the May 3rd elections are to be made freely available online as the results are declared locally on an interactive map.

For the first time maps showing ‘before’ and ‘after’ overall political control in every English local authority including the 151 Councils where elections are being held, will be published and updated by the Local Government Information Unit on an interactive visualisation to be hosted on their website linked from their local election pages (https://www.lgiu.org.uk/project/local-elections-2018/).

Seasoned local election watchers will know that getting a full national and local picture of changes in political control resulting from the local elections has in the past taken many days, with maps that are available tending to be static, requiring a subscription, and only being published days after the event.

Now, a collaboration between CLGdotTV (http://connectedlocalgovernment.tv/) Local Government Information Unit (https://www.lgiu.org.uk/) and Mapolitical (www.mapolitical.com) will share this information as the results are declared.

The scale and complexities of local elections make reporting of changes difficult on a national and even local level, and there is no obligation on councils to report results to a national hub.

Councils do update their websites with details of new councillors, but not all councils choose to devote extra resources to this task and the speed and sophistication with which this is done varies enormously. Residents looking to their council website for speedy and clear results information can often be disappointed.

Aggregating and presenting results quickly at national level is more expensive and difficult than it needs to be because candidate and other election data from council election systems tends not to be available as ‘open’ data.

Organisations like the BBC use their own resources to gather the results council by council as they are declared, as must any other organisation that is interested in reporting results. Once published, this information is subject to copyright restrictions. Reporting by the BBC tends to focus just on the significance of the local results to the national political picture.

This May, elections will take place for all or a proportion of seats (usually a third or quarter of the total) in 151 of England’s 326 councils. Councils announce these results live at declarations, but have no obligation to publish them in an accessible format, apart from by posting physical notices in the town hall and somewhere on their website. Some councils do an amazing job of providing a clear picture of any changes, but in many councils it can be difficult to tell who will be making decisions about local life after an election.

The LGIU has provided a reporting service on local elections for the last 8 years. It gathers results information from sources on the ground at local elections, calculates changes in overall control and adds this information to a national map. In the past this has been a static map, updated by colouring in the different council areas.

This year, thanks to the collaboration with Mapolitical, a data visualisation business, LGiU will be able to upload changes in the number of seats, and consequently overall control, to an online map, and display the before and after picture as it emerges.

The visualisation will be part of live coverage of the local elections results, featuring a number of studio guests, to be presented by Connected Local Government TV on May 4.

According to Ingrid Koehler of the LGIU : “This is an important development. Local election results tend to create little excitement among the general public because the reporting of them is so poor. National news organisations report the national significance in terms of swings for or against the main political parties. Local news organisations have declined significantly, especially in their reporting of local politics. The consequence of this is continuing decline of interest among electors, with turnouts in local elections as low as 20 per cent. This is not healthy when people are much affected by decisions about things that affect schools, local facilities and what it’s like to live in a place.”

Vicky Sargent of CLGdotTV said: “Having worked for many years in the local government sector, we are aware of how much more could be done to support citizen interest in local democracy. Getting election results published fast, and enabling discussion of them from local, rather than national perspectives – which is what we will be doing in our live broadcasting against the background of the results on May 4 – is an exciting prospect.”

Mapolitical is a new unique online map communications application where a user can click down to street level anywhere on a UK map and communicate immediately with the local MP, Ward Councillor, Officer, Parish Councillor, Devolved Parliamentarian, LEP and any other bespoke VIP stakeholder. It is a flexible, easy to use service that provides the capability to support a range of public services in engaging effectively with their communities. Mapolitical technology has been adapted to produce the LGIU Local Election Online Dynamic Map which will show election controlling party results as they are decided on the night of May 3rd.

For more information on the CLGdotTV programmes on 3rd and 4th May and follow us on Twitter @CLGdotTV for regular updates

For more detail on LGiU elections work, including a guide to elections communications, “ones to watch” and links coverage on 3 and 4 May and until the last results are in see the 2018 Local Elections Page.

Watch Vicky Sargent of CLGdotTV talking to Ingrid Koehler of LGiU and Juliet Whitworth of LGA about open data and elections here

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