Knowyourleeds believes strongly in opening up democracy.
There are two basic principles behind this: where is taxpayers money being spent and what are the motives behind the decisions which are made by those who hold power and influence.
Personal time is a rarity in an increasingly demanding and technological driven world.
And it’s understandable to think that this takes time and considerable effort to monitor those who trusted to better the lives of our communities, because it does. But, hopefully, not as much as you may think.
You can get all this information sent to you through your email address. Independently and for free.
Journalists have multiple sources who all contribute to form the stories we’re told.
Luckily for us all, there are websites and tools available to you which can tell you stories like how much the local authority spends on healthcare for the elderly or the how many gifts the lord mayor dishes out to dignitaries.
The great thing about theyworkforyou.comis there’s no limit to what you can find out. This website keeps track of what every elected (and plenty of unelected) official does and can give you your own sources to keep yourselves informed.
If you want to know what your MP – or for that matter, any MP – says in Parliament, then you need to head to theyworkforyou.com.
Enter in your postcode (or any area you’re interested in) and it’ll populate your nearest MPs.
After you’ve selected who you want, you can view their speeches and questions submitted to Parliament either online or you can create an RSS feed.
Feeds are a great way to keep track of things because whenever websites update with new content, you’re automatically sent an email which tells you so.
If you want to keep RSS feeds separate from your emails then you may prefer a decided reader service like Googlereader or Newsgator to keep track of all their feeds. Even better if you can find a the service which downloads direct to your phone too.
Another amazingly simple website is whatdotheyknow.com.
Perhaps you would like to know something which Leeds Council is responsible for? You’ve looked on the council’s website and Googled it but can’t seem to find out the minutes from that planning application meeting you wanted to attend but couldn’t because the dog was sick.
You have a right to this information under the Freedom of Information Act.
By invoking the Freedom of Information Act – I’ll soon be writing a guide to writing them – you can request specific information from authorities in Leeds.
The greatly titled whatdotheyknow.com will take you through t
he process of sending a Freedom of Information requests.
They will keep track of your request for you by sending your request directly to the department responsible. The request is publicly displayed online so there can be no misplaced requests or replies.
So, if your MP, Council, NHS body, Chamber of Commerce representative never replies to your emails, the website will keep tabs on them and remind them to do so, before emailing you to remind you if you need to do anything. Handy.
All this takes little knowledge or technical know-how, and best of all, it’s completely free. Thanks to the brains behind the MySociety.org project All you need is an email address and a genuine interest in knowing what goes on around you.