#WMGRIT: Innovation in Twitter Gritter

Get three things right in local government you may well be laughing: school closures, bin collections and gritting.

Those three horseman of the winter apocalypse can wreak havoc with lives.

Communicate them well and you are winning a big part of the battle.

Back in 2009, a handful of councils started to tweet when they were going out to treat the roads. Why? Because at 3am when there’s two shift workers and a drunk you need to shout about it.

Those pioneering early grit tweets opened-up a door and showed how real time information – and stories – is worth while.

By 2010 the idea had spread, thanks in part through SOCITM’s Twitter Gritter report which hailed best practice. I blogged a case study on it here.

By 2011, digital innovation looks to have taken another step forward with #wmgrit. This is a hashtag but so much more. A Cover It Live pulls Twitter Gritter tweets from eight West Midlands Councils – Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley, Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Solihull – as well as the Highways Agency which treats motorways.

You can click through to the Cover it Live here: West Midlands Gritting Alerts

The eight councils are looking to embed it in their websites and the embed code has been released for others to use.

Why does this work? Because often a journey in the West Midlands can start in one area and go through others. Travel from Telford to Dudley and you can pass through five council areas in less than 30 miles. Bigger areas like Northumberland probably don’t need this.

Giving simple real time information is a brilliant way to make life a little easier for motorists, shout alerts and lets not forget remind people what local government does for them.

Who is the brains behind this? Much kudos to the digitally-savvy Birmingham City Council press officer Geoff Coleman who has developed this idea. Geoff – who is @colebagski on Twitter – hatched the plan and got people on board.

The man is brilliant. It’s people like Geoff and his militant optimism and his spirit of innovation that makes local government such an inspiring place to work and I’ll look forward the case study Geoff writes.


Twitter Gritter SOCITM’s report.

Creative Commons:

Walsall Gritter http://www.flickr.com/photos/danieldslee/5087392860/sizes/z/in/photostream/

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