Local authority websites could soon carry commercial adverts as cash-strapped councils seek out new forms of revenue.
Lincolnshire CC plans to sell space for advertising throughout its website and has cleared the plans with lawyers and councillors. Other councils are thought to be interested in following suit.
Peter Barton, Lincolnshire’s head of web and information services, said it had been developing proposals for five years.
The government’s demand that councils find three percent annual efficiency savings has pushed it to take action, Mr Barton said. “We have been told we have to make savings and my method to making savings is to make income.”
The council has designed mock-up web pages seen by LGC. Some have picture adverts for Volkswagen cars, while others show text adverts for local firms.
“We can carry any adverts that would be carried on the likes of Yahoo! or Google,” Mr Barton added.
In a speech last November, local government minister John Healey urged councils to be more entrepreneurial.
Mr Barton said he would be happy if the adverts brought initial revenues of about£50,000. “I don’t like ‘pop-ups’,” he said. “But if someone says we will give you£30,000 for one then Mammon might take over.”
Some web managers voiced concerns over impartiality.
“There are questions of context, impartiality and propriety,” said Graham Kidd, systems integration manager at Isle of Anglesey CC. “It is not what people expect to see on a government service-delivery website.”
A spokesman for the Local Government Association said councils already took advertising in their magazines. “The Guardian has adverts on its website but it is still recognisably The Guardian,” he said.