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Things to consider when planning a new website for your parish or town council

Mark Tomkins

As a parish clerk, you understand the importance of fostering a welcoming and inclusive community whilst ensuring the council meets its legal and regulatory requirements. This extends to the council’s online presence, too. A new website built with accessibility in mind not only adheres to legal requirements but also opens your parish to a wider audience. The current standard is WCAG2.1AA and rises to WCAG2.2AA in October 2024. Here are some key tips to consider when planning a new, fully compliant website :


  • Clear and Concise Language: Use plain language that is easy to understand for people with varying levels of reading comprehension. Avoid jargon and technical terms where possible.
  • Files & documents: make sure that all the files (minutes, agendas, AGAR, neighbourhood plans, policies, councillors’ ROIS etc) that you want transferred to the new website are either working on your new website or you can provide them to the website developer. This will save time, money and result in a better outcome.
  • Structure and Navigation: Organise content logically with clear headings and subheadings. Employ a consistent navigation bar throughout the website for easy access. A good website expert will provide a sitemap template to build upon that has all the regulatory areas covered.
  • Accessibility publishing techniques: Make sure you are up to speed with the required publishing techniques. Here’s a handy accessible publishing techniques guide.
  • Think about the content planning: is the current content up to date? Are there areas or pages that you want to add to the new site. These can all be added when it comes to the sitemap and planning stages.
  • Images: Check that the images you want to put on the website are yours to use and haven’t just been inherited from an unknown source. Image licencing is big business and many councils that use images they ‘find on Google’ end up being used unlicenced and can result in fines.It’s best to plan to take some new images for the new website. Modern smartphones are more than adequate. Our recommendation is to take them in landscape aspect ratio (sideways) as that will mean it’s more likely to fit in most spaces on a website – portrait images are best for the councillors’ profiles.

Technology and Maintenance:

  • Content Management System (CMS): make sure you have had a demo of the website admin area. The easiest platforms to use are those built on WordPress and that have been customised specifically for councils.
  • The hosting must be in the UK and have an SSL certificate
  • Ongoing accessibility compliance: The website developer commits to the platform meeting the current and future accessibility regulation standards or provides you with regular checking services.
  • Know where your domain names are registered: the website providers will need access. It’s best to transfer the domain to their registry for best practice management.
  • Ask about DDOS (Denial of Service) protection – an experienced website provider will offer this by default and is highly recommended if you use a domain
  • domains: Consider migrating to a domain if you are not already. Many added benefits are provided that improve security and authenticity of message. Here’s a handy article ‘How to get a domain’
  • Make sure your website provider is recognised in the sector and has a good track record. Refer to your SLCC local branch or Local Council Association for references.
  • Email accounts: Find out who manages your email accounts currently if you use domain-based email. It may be a different provider than the website host. The new provider will most likely offer email services to make sure you know how many addresses you need. If you are using (or moving to) a domain, as a very minimum, the clerk must have [email protected] as the official address.
  • Support is key: Find out what support is provided. Over Zoom or Teams where the website company provide training and guidance and can both teach you and provide ongoing support is best and more efficient. It’s also a good idea that the website developers understand the councils as there are many specific publishing terms and references that are unique to the sector.

Additional Considerations:

  • Mobile Responsiveness: Ensure the website functions and displays well on all devices, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones – most of your parishioners will be using your website from their phones.
  • Accessibility Statement: Publish a statement on your website declaring your commitment to WCAG compliance and outlining the specific level achieved. This is the law. Your website provider will be able to provide the most up to date starting template but remember that it is a living document and reflects the council’s knowledge of the accessible nature of the website – it will need regular review. Remember that as it is a policy this (and the website privacy policy) will need ratification by Council.
  • Privacy policy: Websites need to display a privacy policy to meet GDPR compliance. Make sure your council review their current policy to ensure it is up to date. Your website provider will be able to assist you to make sure you include any relevant information that relates to the new site and any data it captures.
  • Training: Train staff responsible for website content creation on WCAG guidelines and best practices for accessible website publishing.
  • Future updates and upgrades: find out what the website provider’s plans are for future development.
  • Certification and accreditation: Make sure that your website developers are Cyber Essentials certified if you are using (or plan to) use a domain. This is a requirement. Find out if they are authorised by the CDDO & Nominet to manage the domains themselves through their own accreditation or if they are doing it through another third party. The latter is not recommended as you will have little recourse if there are issues.


By incorporating these tips and resources, you can ensure your parish website is accessible and welcoming to everyone. Remember, an accessible website not only fulfils legal requirements but also strengthens your community by allowing everyone to participate and connect with your parish.

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