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IT progress beats post strikes

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IT specialists say the postal strike has proved the worth of councils' efforts to make services available online.

The impact of recent action by members of the Communication Workers Union has been minimised by the fact that most payments can now be made electronically and information is transferred by email or made available on the internet.

Chairman of the Local Government Association's Transport & Regeneration Board, David Sparks (Lab), had heard no reports of major problems.

"If you had asked me the same question 15 years ago it would be different. I don't think people fully appreciated the degree to which electronic forms of payment are now dominating local government," he said.

Jos Creese, head of IT at Hampshire CC and chair of the Society of Information Technology Management Insight group, said: "Electronic services make us a little less dependent on the post."

But some services have been hit. Hampshire CC fears up to 400 families could miss the 19 October application deadline to apply for a secondary school place. The council has advised them to apply online or through any school.

Many councils are not posting housing benefit cheques until the strike is over in case they get lost or unreasonably delayed. They are advising claimants to collect payments in person.

Councils facing by-elections have suffered. Postal vote papers for the 18 October by-election in Ellesmere Port & Neston BC and 25 October by-election inHarlowDCare having to be hand-delivered.

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