Sixty-six per cent of Scottish council websites assessed as unsatisfactory for building warrant information
SOCITM’s Better Connected survey of local government websites rated just 34 per cent in Scotland good or very good
SOCITM Better Connected website - Image credit: SOCITM
Sixty-six per cent of Scottish council websites have been rated unsatisfactory or poor in a recent audit of the information they provide on how to apply for a building warrant.
A third failed the “essential question”: ‘Can I easily find out whether the work I have commissioned (extension including new bathroom) requires a building standards warrant?’ which ruled them ruling them out of a ranking of more than two stars the SOCITM Better Connected survey.
Meanwhile, a quarter of the websites looked at included out-of-date information, which also meant they could not score above two stars.
The Better Connected survey assesses how easy it is to find the relevant information on a council website to complete a particular task.
Among the questions asked in this assessment were: ‘Can I easily find out whether the work I have commissioned requires a building standards warrant?’ ‘Am I told on the council's web pages that I need to obtain a building warrant before work starts?’ and ‘Can I easily find a phone number for the building standards department to call if I need assistance?’
The vast majority had basic information such as the cost of a building warrant and how to apply for one online, but just six per cent warned residents that they could face a £5,000 fine if they started work without a building warrant and only 22 per cent explained that a building warrant is an important document when you want to sell a property.
The Scottish result falls below the average for the equivalent task in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, which was 43 per cent, even though the arrangements in Scotland are more straightforward.
SOCITM commented: “With no building notice/full plans options to cause confusion, the expectation might be that the results in Scotland would be better, but here only 34 per cent of sites achieve three or four stars compared with 43 per cent in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
Sites were criticised for, among other things, including out of date information referring to the national online e-Building Standards system as coming soon, when it has launched in August 2016, referring people to PDFs or straight to external websites such as e-Building Standards and providing too much information in the form of FAQs.
The report also said: “Some councils are clearly yet to fully embrace a digital-first approach, and it wasn’t uncommon to see users encouraged to contact the council to get the answers they need.”
However, Midlothian, North Ayrshire and Perth and Kinross were particularly recommended by SOCITM for their user-friendly approaches.
This is the first of several SOCITM Better Connected online assessments, with business licencing, social care and rubbish and recycling to be looked at in the new year.
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