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Public Notice Portal: all you need to know

By Tom Ramage

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Public notices have always been a draw for local newspaper readers and now they are set to attract even more followers to a new generation of web audience.

Providing an essential link between communities and their local councils is more relevant than ever and that's been recognised with the creation of the Public Notice Portal.

The service, now available across the UK, will enhance local democracy by harnessing the local news media's booming online audiences.

All you need to know
All you need to know

The portal, which went live in September with a soft launch, displays more than 10,000 live notices at any given time, with an average of 2,500 notices added by local publishers every week.

The website was built by Reach plc with £1 million from the Google News Initiative, seeing public notices now featured on the main pages, enhancing people’s access to and understanding of important information about planning, construction, transport links, roadworks, and licensing changes in their local area.

The portal, carrying all the public notices already published in Highland News & Media's print titles, is fully and easily searchable by postcode, type of notice, and - in addition to operating as a standalone site - delivers notifications for users who have signed up to receive alerts about particular types of notices, or those relating to a specific geographic area.

The service is set to boost the number of users to new levels, with local news media already highly trusted by the public and reaching huge audiences. According to the latest audience data from JICREG Trust Local, the sector’s audience measurement currency, 73 per cent of those aged over 15 are now reading local news either in print or digitally every month.

A separate survey by Newsworks/OnePoll confirmed that 81 per cent trust the information they see in their local news media – a rise of seven per cent on 2018.

Media minister Sir John Whittingdale MP hailed the new service as "an excellent example of innovation from our local news sector which will support local democracy by boosting online visibility of this essential information.

“Ensuring the activities of all local authorities are recorded in the portal will be key to its success, so I encourage local authorities and local press to work together to bring the full benefits of this tool to people across the UK.”

Recently, the government pledged to keep public notices in printed local newspapers, affirming: "It is clear that print newspapers still play a role in providing transparent and trusted information to local communities about local government decision making."

The Public Notice Portal is designed to enhance the vital role of printed local newspapers in publicising public notices, with the government acknowledging that changing the requirement for local authorities to place public notices in printed local newspapers would see 10 million people – many of them vulnerable or elderly – cut off from viewing the notices, which would create "a serious democratic deficit."

Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker said: “Highly trusted local news media has a critical role to play in ensuring public notices reach as many people in local communities as possible, ensuring the fullest possible scrutiny of the information they contain."

Debbie Weinstein, vice-president of Google UK & Ireland, welcomed the new portal as "a brilliant example of innovation from the local news media sector."

She said: "We are very pleased to have played our part in this success.

“Local news titles are essential in ensuring that people can access important information which will affect their lives and the portal will strengthen this vital democratic role even more.”

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