Town halls struggle with e-targets

23 Aug 01
Prime Minister Tony Blair's e-government targets are looking increasingly shaky as councils struggle to put together plans and industry experts call for a more realistic timescale.

24 August 2001

Around 94% of local authorities are now understood to have submitted their Implementing Electronic Government (IEG) statements – their strategies for getting services on-line by 2005 – by the July 31 deadline.

But while officials at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions lauded this as a major success, sources have confirmed that a large number of authorities submitted statements with serious gaps. The department is understood to have given these authorities extra time to complete their long-term strategies but this opens the possibility of several IEGs being rejected.

In the three weeks before the statement deadline, a survey from research organisation the Customer Contact Company found that only a third of councils had completed their IEGs while 10% hadn't even started.

The Society of Information Technology Management, with members mainly from local authorities, is understood to have suggested 2009 as a more realistic target for e-services.

The private sector has long expressed its frustration with Whitehall's e-government strategy. Ian Busby, chief executive of IT company eGS, expressed concern over funding and said e-government should be expanded regionally with public-private partnerships footing the bill not the taxpayer. 'The solution would be a regional PPP funded by businesses that have an interest in that area. It would be a glorious PPP,' he told Public Finance.

Busby said he was in talks with county councils and regional development agencies on the plans, which have already been piloted in the US.

He added that Whitehall had also been poor in communicating the real benefits of e-government. 'Services on-line have been expressed as targets not benefits. They should start by giving benefit statements such as: all citizens will be able to access easy transactions on-line,' he said.


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