Town hall e-government falters at funding hurdle

6 Jul 00
The government's vision of town halls delivering services to the public via the Internet and digital TV will fail without further funding, local government leaders have warned.

07 July 2000

The publication of proposed electronic service delivery targets and measures for local government last week shows ministers' determination to modernise town halls.

But while the consultation paper was welcomed by Bernard Quoroll, one of two local government representatives on the team of 'information age champions' supporting the e-government agenda, he warned that money was now needed to turn the vision into a reality.

Quoroll, chief executive of the Isle of Wight council, said: 'Funding will be a key determinant of the speed that local authorities can move forwards at.'

Although Quoroll is 'optimistic' about funds, there are widespread concerns over cash. A BT survey published this week found that 86% of local government 'decision-makers' see lack of funding as the main barrier to e-government take-up.

The prime minister recently toughened electronic service delivery targets for central government to 100% capability by 2005.

Although this is also seen as a standard for town halls, nearly half of local government managers asked said they were not confident their organisation would meet the target.

The consultation paper on new local government targets, which was promised when the government published its e-government strategic framework in April, encourages councils to set their own targets that are 'consistent' with the central government timescales.

And although only two statutory Performance Indicators are expected to emerge in the short term, covering electronic transactions with the public and suppliers, councils are invited to consider adopting seven 'corporate health' targets and 33 corporate measures.

The proposed indicators would involve a major administrative exercise for councils. For instance, they would have to count the percentage of interactions with the public via websites, call centres, smart cards, digital TV and the telephone, as well as predicting future usage.

John Serle, head of IT at Lincolnshire County Council and spokesman for the Society of IT Management, the councils' IT body, said: 'It will perhaps wake up local authorities [to the fact that] the government means business about modernisation.'


Did you enjoy this article?