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SURVEY OF CURRENT PROVISION FOR BUSINESS ON COUNCIL WEBSITES

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The Working with Business National Project has embarked upon a full scale baseline survey of current provision for ...
The Working with Business National Project has embarked upon a full scale baseline survey of current provision for business on local authority websites in England.

The full survey follows a pilot which included 25 local authorities, comprising a mix of county councils, shire districts, and unitary authorities including London boroughs.

The full survey, effectively a 'mystery shopping exercise' will be carried out during May and June and the report emerging from it will be presented to the Working With Business National Project in late July. The results will be made generally available during the summer via the project website www.workingwithbusiness.org.uk

The survey covers issues like whether the council has a dedicated business area on its site, how easy it is to find key information on, for example, vacant properties in the area, whether it is possible to do 'transactions' on the site, like pay the business rates or order a waste bin, and whether the site is 'joined-up' with other relevant central and local government services.

The survey will be carried out by Socitm Insight, an organisation that is well known for its annual Better Connected survey of all local authority websites. The survey will use methodology developed for Better Connected and the survey report will use the Better Connected classifications of Promotional, Content, Content Plus and Transactional to rank every site's performance for the provision of information and services to business. Local authority websites need to be classified as transactional in order to meet the government's 2005 targets for local e-government.

According to Martin Greenwood who is managing the survey for WWB NP, results from the pilot survey suggest that local authorities have to date paid less attention to web provision for business custo mers than they have for individual citizens. 'Based on the pilot sample, web provision for business is behind that now available for citizens. Generally the rating assigned to our 25 sample sites for their business provision lagged their achievement in the most recent Better Connected survey which covers the whole site. We also found information for business is fragmented across most websites, making it more difficult to track down the information than if it was brought together into one section. We also noticed a sometimes startling difference in quality between an authority's 'Invest in' site and the business section of its main website.'

Yvonne Wilkinson of Barnsley MBC which is leading the WWB NP, says: 'The survey will reveal best practice which can be taken on board by authorities looking to improve the climate and environment for businesses in their area. It will also highlight improvements that councils' should be considering and which could be effected by adoption of the Model Business Website that the WWB NP is developing and which will be available to councils from early July.'

Notes

The Working with Business National Project is one of 24 National Projects being funded by the ODPM to ensure that all councils have access to key electronic services and building blocks without having to build them from scratch. The outputs from the WWB project, which is being run by a consortium of councils led by Barnsley MBC, will be freely available to all local authorities to adopt as part of their plans to meet the requirement for all local authorities to have their services available online by the end of 2005. The project will be competed by 30 June 2004 and dissemination of the project outputs will continue up to the end of 2005.

More information is available here.

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