community, promotions, social media

Communities go online

yccwebpageCOMMUNITY councils in West Lothian are going online to “net” residents’ support.

They’ve joined forces to launch a new website to boost their profile and make them more accessible.

The result is http://www.yourcommunitycouncil.co.uk, a website backed by a poster and leaflet campaign – all designed to get more people talking to their community representatives.

Helen Taylor, the chair of West Lothian Association of Community Councils – which commissioned the campaign – said: “The website has information on all 34 community councils across the district.

“There’s information on public meetings, local representatives and much more. You can even read individual councils’ minutes online.

“As far as I know this is a first for Scotland. Some community councils run individual websites or are involved in commercially-run “local” sites – and a few community councils in the Stirling area are involved in a small site.

“But this is the first time that a site covering a complete council area has been produced for community councils to operate.”

Each community council has been given its own ‘homepage’ and the ability to easily upload news and information without any specialist knowledge. There’s information on what community councils do – and even advice on how to set up community councils in areas without representation. There’s also travel information, local weather, free directory inquiries checks, and links to useful government websites.

Among the first to sign up to take part in the site were Bathgate and Linlithgow Community Councils.

Morag Nelson, the chair of Linlithgow Community Council, said: “The website will make it easier for local people to get in touch with us – and for us to gauge the views of the local community.”

Ronnie MacLeod, the chairman of Bathgate Community Council, added: “We’re pleased to get involved in this project, as it will make us more open and accountable to local people.

“Community Councils are often thought of as being a bit old-fashioned. Using the web, we’re using the latest technology to bring key issues to the residents we serve.”

The website and publicity campaign is the brainchild of Bo’ness-based publicity firm, The PR Store, and its web associates Oldhand Media. Both businesses slashed their fees and worked on much of the project for free to deliver the Your Community Council initiative.

Helen said: “Initially we wanted a small website for the association – but the firms have gone the extra mile and delivered much more than we ever expected. They even helped organise training to ensure older, less-techy community councillors could get to grips with the website.

“We’re really pleased with the results and hope it will attract lots of people – particularly young people – to get involved with their community council.”

The website has also won the support of local internet company XCalibre Communications in Livingston. XCalibre agreed to host the site for free for the first two years.

Tony Lucas, chief executive officer of XCalibre, said: “The project is a great example of how the internet can bring communities together. As a local technology company we were delighted to support the website and wish the community councils every success with their venture.”

Ms Taylor said the Association of Community Councils ? formed in 1998 to represent all community councils across West Lothian – was already seeing the benefit of having a central website.

She said: “Neighbouring community councils now find it really easy to email each other or read meeting minutes. Often they’re finding that they have lots of common issues that they can tackle together.

“Of course, we realise that not everyone will embrace the internet. That’s why we’ve backed the campaign with posters and leaflets to make sure everyone knows what community councils do – and how to get involved.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:
* Information on each community council is easily accessible by visiting http://www.yourcommunitycouncil.co.uk and selecting a town or village from the pulldown list.

* Alternatively users can go directly to their community council’s section or homepage. They simply type their area’s name after a forward slash. So Linlithgow Community Council’s page is at: http://www.yourcommunitycouncil.co.uk/linlithgow and Bathgate?s is at http://www.yourcommunitycouncil.co.uk/bathgate (and so on).

* Residents can also send emails to individual community councils using the style
areaname@yourcommunitycouncil.co.uk – so Linlithgow CC can be contacted via linlithgow@yourcommunitycouncil.co.uk and Bathgate at: bathgate@yourcommunitycouncil.co.uk (and so on).

* Please note that not all areas of West Lothian have a community council. However, the site does include details on how residents can start their own group. As the site is new, not every area of the site has been populated with information by individual community councils. Anyone with queries can email: info@yourcommunitycouncil.co.uk.

* West Lothian Association of Community Councils, which commissioned the website and publicity campaign, represents all 34 community councils across West Lothian. One of its key aims is to strengthen the identity of community councils in the area. The Association, like member community councils, is run by volunteers and grant-funded by West Lothian Council.

* The PR Store, is a PR and communications business, based in Bo’ness, West Lothian. Founder Adrian Mahoney was a finalist in last year’s Scottish PR Awards – the PRide Awards run by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. He is a former chief reporter of The Falkirk Herald. Find out more at http://www.theprstore.net

* Oldhand Media is a website design and development business based in Bo’ness. Find out more at http://www.oldhandmedia.co.uk

* Founded in 1997 and based in Livingston, Scotland, XCalibre Communications Ltd. aims to provide flexible and friendly internet solutions to businesses, resellers and individuals. Find out more at http://www.xcalibre.co.uk

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Please contact Adrian Mahoney at The PR Store
on 01506 823714 or 07967 150560
or email: adrian@theprstore.net

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