CMS used by English local authorities

I have been reviewing CMS used in local government across the UK for the last three years. I’ve shared this personal research with the LocalGov Drupal project and more recently with Dave Briggs, who has carried out some research of his own. This reinvigorated my interest in this subject so I decided to map the CMS used by councils to better understand the geographical spread. To date I have done this for English local authorities, but I’d like to extend it to all UK local authorities if I can find Wales and Scotland authorities in a mapping format (ideally KML).

When I started using web content management systems twenty years ago the majority of councils used proprietary or licensed software. The use of open source was quite marginal and dare I say seemed an option of last resort. I certainly would not have been brave enough in those days to use an open source CMS. How things have changed! Now more and more councils are using open source, the two main ones being Drupal and Umbraco. At Bracknell Forest we started using Drupal 4 years ago and have not looked back. The absence of licensing costs means that any budget can be focussed on developing new functionality and improving customer experience.

When I started using Drupal I could see the opportunities of working with other councils to develop a shared local gov Drupal distribution. Sadly at the time collaboration in local government digital was in its infancy and noone seemed that interested in exploring the opportunities. That all changed when Will Callaghan tweeted about councils working to together to build websites, rather than constantly reinventing the wheel. Will’s efforts and persistence resulted in funding from the MHCLG to make LocalGov Drupal a reality. The growth has been phenomenal (due in most part to the boundless enthusiasm of Will Callaghan, Finn Lewis and countless others) and in the space of what seems a very short time 22 councils are now actively using or about to use LocalGov Drupal.

The map shows that a myriad of CMS are used across England. The leading proprietary CMS providers, Jadu and GOSS dominate much of the landscape. Amongst open source CMS providers, Drupal is used by more councils, but Umbraco has a wider geographical presence. It will be interesting to see how this changes over the next couple of years as LocalGov Drupal gains traction and more councils join the revolution. I don’t use that word lightly here, it is a revolution and one which will undoubtedly bring enormous benefits. The roadmap for delivering improved website functionality for councils using LocalGov Drupal is starting to take shape and it will undoubtedly transform and improve service delivery and customer experience.

I don’t think it is unfair to say that council websites have remained much the same over the last ten years. The offering has been static for too long and that has to change as people’s expectations of modern websites has risen dramatically over this period. Design wise council websites appear to be much of a muchness, with a GOV.UK influenced design attempted by many. I would like to see this change, for council websites to incorporate far greater functionality and provide a better customer experience, but also to present a sense of place to better promote and celebrate the communities and residents that they serve.

If you spot any mistakes on the map or want to suggest any updates then please do get in contact.


2 thoughts on “CMS used by English local authorities

  1. Much like yourself Colin, been around CMS for 20 years either licenced, open source and even self built. I think from my perspective the increase of usage around open source is a positive change in terms of many are community led, supported by knowledgeable communities too. From a strategic point of view however our skillsets tend to learn to those platforms that use particular frameworks or languages that best suit the inhouse capabilities. I miss the days of Coldfusion though! Very interesting to see this mapped and thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for your comments and feedback Jason. Yes, the increase in the use of open source is a positive change. I am planning to reflect the use of open source in the UK wide CMS usage map that I am currently working on and in supporting blog posts. Great to see that Cornwall is flying the flag for open source (and that its used throughout the South West). All the best to you and to Cornwall, which is my favourite and regular holiday destination.

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