By Margaret Hender
Following on from my recent hunt for Climate Emergency Declaration (CED) banners on the websites of Australian local councils who have declared a Climate Emergency, I knuckled down to search the homepage of all 543 CED local councils in the UK. Maybe there are better ways to spend a wet and wintry week, but once I reached the ‘W’ part of the alphabetical list here, I found the wonderful CED banner above just under the main header on the Wandsworth Borough Council homepage.
The Wandsworth banner takes the prize for excellent CED visibility. Any local residents visiting the website to check their bin collection dates cannot fail to see this banner stating that the council has declared a Climate Emergency. Not only that, the ‘Wandsworth together’ slogan gives a clear message that everyone can (and is expected to) help tackle the emergency, and there is a link to find out how to do that.
Local government in the UK consists of a single tier in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but in England there are three tiers: regional authorities (11), local authorities (333), and the lowest tier consisting of town and parish councils (10,475).
Middle-tier local authorities – borough, county, district, and city councils
The other standout amongst middle-tier websites is the following Climate Emergency call to action in a rotating banner near the top of the Lancaster City Council homepage.
In general, councils seem to include items that are currently important to them in rotating banners, but the downside of that is that a rotating Climate Emergency item might not be displayed at the time anyone who is just looking for bin collection days scrolls down the page. However, the Lancaster banner rotates fairly quickly and only has two items rotating, so it is unlikely to be missed. It might even be more eye-catching than a static image as the movement tends to attract the eye.
Such excellent CED visibility on the Lancaster website was not a surprise to me. The Deputy Leader of Lancaster City Council, Cllr Kevin Frea, is the brains behind the excellent Climate Emergency UK website, an extremely comprehensive record of UK declarations, Climate Emergency Action Plans by UK local councils, and even a council climate plan scorecard mechanism.
Middle-tier councils in the UK have quite a wide range of functions, so their websites tend to show their numerous main menu items as blocks of icons or images. It is rare for their CED to rate inclusion in these main menu blocks. In too many cases the CED information can only be found by clicking on something more generic, like ‘Environment’, but there are some good examples of giving their CED equal prominence with other main menu items. For example, in the following main menu icons on the South Cambridgeshire District Council homepage:
Or this section of the Somerset County Council main menu:
Or the following image panel for featured menu items on the Eastleigh Borough Council homepage:
Or the following Rother District Council main menu using panels of images rather than icons:
Small town and parish councils
Town and parish councils have a quite limited range of responsibility and power, and therefore less contention for space on a council’s homepage. This might explain why this is the only tier of local government where I found examples of the Climate Emergency being included in the top main menu. For example, on the Bishopsteignton Parish Council website:
And the Chagford Parish Council website:
Or this link to their CED right at the top of the Dawlish Town Council homepage:
And some parish and town councils give visibility to their CEDs in the body of their homepage, for example this Climate Emergency panel on the homepage of the Glastonbury Town Council website:
Of the 544 local councils in the UK with known Climate Emergency Declarations (CEDs), 65 (11.9%) have made their declaration clearly visible on the homepage of their website. While this figure is disappointingly low, it is significantly better than what was found for CED councils in Australia.
The small town and parish councils have the highest percentage of CED visibility, with 38 (18.7%) featuring their CED on their homepage. None of the huge regional combined authorities do so even though 9 of the 11 regional authorities have declared a Climate Emergency.
The near misses
In addition to the above, 20 UK councils have either an eye-catching homepage rotating banner, static image panel, or popup that links to comprehensive information about their declarations, action plans, and information for engaging the local community. The only downside is the lack of the ’emergency’ word. For example, the popup announcing climate action investment (more on that in a future blog post!) below on the Telford and Wrekin Council website homepage:
Or the following rotating climate action banner near the top of the homepage of the West Sussex County Council website:
Or the following zero carbon banner on the homepage of the Gateshead Council website:
Despite not using the term ‘climate emergency’, the above are highly visible to anyone visiting those websites, and they do indicate that the councils are placing a high priority on climate action.
There are another 149 (27.4%) of the UK CED councils that also publish quite comprehensive information on their declarations and action plans, and in most cases also material designed to engage the entire community. However, website visitors will only see that information if they go out of their way to look for it. In about half of those cases website visitors can look for ‘climate’ in a long list of menu items. However, in other cases website visitors need to first click an ‘environment’, ‘sustainability’, or similar menu item, then click down through submenu layers to find links to the Climate Emergency content.
I don’t think my week was wasted. A large part of the point of declaring a Climate Emergency is to make the local community sit up and take notice. For that a council’s declaration needs to be clearly visible…to everyone, not just to those who are already engaged in climate action and actively seeking information on what their own local council is doing.
I’d like to think some other CED councils will be inspired by the good examples above. Please tell us all in the comments below if your council decides to add a Climate Emergency banner or something equally visible on the homepage of their website!
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