Public sector 'should put more services online'

18 Apr 11
The public sector should encourage people to use online services as part of a cost-saving drive, consultancy Deloitte has said.
By Richard Johnstone

18 April 2011

The public sector should encourage people to use online services as part of a cost-saving drive, consultancy Deloitte has said.

In a report published today, Deloitte cited Revenue & Custom’s online self-assessment and the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s car tax applications as good examples of online services. But it said there were many more opportunities for using the web instead of costlier postal, telephone and face-to-face contacts.

A public sector organisation’s online strategy should be based around specific transactions, such as applications for school places, the report found.

It would also need to build consensus for the move between central and local government, to ensure continuity for services that cut across different bodies.

Deloitte public service director Joel Bellman said: ‘Over the past decade the public sector has often treated digital services as an add-on to traditional paper, telephone or face-to-face contact rather than a replacement for it. Only a fraction of the potential cost savings have been achieved.

 ‘We expect to see new digital services launched arm-in-arm with rationing of expensive channels across the public sector over the coming years. The trend varies by sector, but it is widely applicable across taxation, benefit payments, local government, education, health, environment and social care. Not only will it improve services and save costs, but it will prevent vulnerable citizens from being crowded out of the support they need by citizens who are better able to serve themselves online.’

A move towards more online services in local government has been backed in a separate survey. In a poll of 1,000 members of the public undertaken by Capita, 40% of respondents said IT could improve local services by enabling more to be provided online.

Capita also found that four out of five people in the country did not care who provided local authority IT services as long as the quality was good.

More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents believed that, given the financial pressures on local authorities, more effective use of IT could help save their council money.

Capita business director Paul Dawson said: ‘There is a clear message from the public that there is definitely more scope for IT to modernise existing service provision, which could include using text messages, providing electronic forms or introducing personalised web portals for citizens.

‘Whether that is delivered by the council or by an external provider is not the main concern – the Holy Grail is to protect services while helping to save money.’

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