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COUNCIL WEBSITES 'REMAIN VERY POOR'

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A survey by the Society of IT Management, to be published next week, will reveal that most councils' websites are v...
A survey by the Society of IT Management, to be published next week, will reveal that most councils' websites are very limited.

The Guardian (Society, p6) reports that 401 or 86% of local authorities in the UK have websites - 60 more than last year - but Socitm says that, overall, the content of the sites remains poor.

Nearly 60% of sites are identified as merely promotional, concentrating on tourism and economic development. These sites make little use of email or online feedback and provide only limited information on local services.

Instead, councils should be aspiring to transactional sites where people can pay council tax over the net or fill in forms online.

Barry Quirk, chief executive of Lewisham LBC, and part of a group helping the government drive forward its modernisation agenda, says the survey results are not a surprise.

'The internet is producing a tidal wave of demand, and councils have to change or lose credence in the eyes of the public,' he said.

He believes councils need to be far more ambitious in their use of the internet and become the focal point for all local information, including health services and travel.

Councils claim that investment is needed to make progress. Until then, councils argue, they will have to retain their traditional service outlets.

But John Serle, Socitm spokesman and head of IT at Lincolnshire CC, says local government has to move on from these 'stereotypical excuses'. 'We are talking about models of service delivery - libraries and schools for instance - that are over 100 years old in some cases,' he said.

Breaking up the existing infrastructure will take 'managerial and political courage' he says. But eventually the public's frustration at councils' failure to work electronically will overcome any nostalgic attachments to the old institutions.

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