Get e-going, councils warned

29 Mar 01
Many councils are not doing enough to provide their services electronically and could get left behind if they do not act soon, local government minister Beverley Hughes warned last week.

30 March 2001

Speaking at a conference organised by the New Local Government Network (NLGN), she said that some councils had made 'real progress' with e-government. Every council will soon have its own website and most have an e-mail address for every employee and every elected member.

But she added: 'The level of awareness and preparation is by no means universal. Many councils have yet to engage fully with the e-revolution and we have yet to achieve the critical mass that's necessary to accelerate change.'

Hughes said that councils receive more than 1 billion telephone calls each year. A quarter of these remain unanswered and the rest get a 'variable' response.

She described as 'interesting' a NLGN proposal to create a national network of locally managed call centres. 'In many ways this is attractive – it is simple to use, spreads risk and takes advantage of economies of scale.'

Councils could also learn from their more successful counterparts, the minister suggested. She used the conference to announce the 105 local authorities which have been chosen to take part in 25 pathfinder projects to develop better methods of providing services electronically.

These councils, along with their academic, community and private sector partners, will benefit from a £25m government cash injection.

They will work on a range of schemes to provide services through the Internet, smart cards and digital television.

Hughes said the pathfinders would help councils to meet the prime minister's target of having all public services available electronically by 2005.

'Pathfinders will act as exemplars for the e-revolution, and as test-beds for what works,' she said.

Successful councils include Tameside, Kirklees and Waltham Forest, which are working together on e-tendering, e-procurement and e-democracy, and councils in Surrey, which will develop an electronic hub to collect information relating to emergencies such as the spread of foot and mouth disease.


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