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E-STRATEGY TWO YEARS TOO LATE TO BE ANY USE

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By LGC political correspondent Varya Shaw ...
By LGC political correspondent Varya Shaw

The government has published its draft national strategy for local e-government, but fears have been voiced the blueprint is too little, too late.

The document will not appear in its final form until October, just over two years before the government requires best value performance indicators data in March 2005.

So far only an average 29% of council

services are online but this is as low as 5% in some places.

Hillingdon LBC head of ICT Steve Palmer said: '[The strategy] will not be finalised until much later this year and that means only two years before the 2005 deadline. That is very late in the day.'

Society of IT Management information age group chair Glyn Evans said: 'It would have been useful to have this two years ago.'

He added: 'It's too complex to target it at all the audiences at once. There's no way there's a chief executive in the country that will read this, but every chief executive ought to, or understand the process behind it.

'E-government is about government. If you see it as a separate initiative we will always struggle to engage with local

politics.'

He said the deadline was an area 'where there's been a lack of clarification from the beginning.'

The strategy acknowledges both the potential and the 'huge challenges' offered by e-government. It aims to provide a 'clear framework of standards, expectations, infrastructure and support within which local innovation and delivery can flourish'.

Local government minister Nick Raynsford said: 'This is not a simple process. There are complex issues to be handled to make sure the information is accurate, it's all joined up properly and there are proper security checks in place. There have to be national standards so we don't end up with incompatible systems.'

He added: 'This is about re-engineering the way local authorities relate to their

public. There's a lot of work that needs to be done.'

Mr Raynsford also talked up the human side of e-government. He said: 'This is terribly exciting. This is about improving the quality of people's lives, about tackling social exclusion, as people find it easier to access services.'

But many local government figures said the strategy was too 'techie' in its existing form.

Tameside MBC chief executive Michael Greenwood said: 'It doesn't show how important political leadership is to development and transformation.

'This is about transforming delivery, about services, quality and cost. [The strategy] is quite technical. I can read it, but some people wouldn't want to.'

Only a fraction of the money local government has said it needs to meet the deadline has been provided by central government. Councils estimate they will spend£2.5bn meeting the targets, but only£350m was available in the 2000 spending review.

The deadline for responses to the draft is 28 June.

-- 'The LGC market report: E-government' is available to councils for£200 (discounts for multiple orders). Call Sue Fowler 020 7347 1917 or e-mail: sue.fowler@lgc.emap.com

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