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Single local government website “ill-conceived” – Socitm

The idea of creating a single website that brings together information and services for all local government users in the way that GOV.UK does for central government is “ill-conceived” and should “not be attempted”, Socitm has said. 

The association, for IT and digital leaders working in local public services, has reiterated a view it recently expressed in an interview with PSE, when Martin Greenwood told us: “It’s a total waste of time, it’s never going to happen – and nor should it”.

Socitm has released a statement saying the superficially attractive idea is “deeply flawed”. 

For example, it states that the aim of the Localism Act 2011 is to devolve more decision making powers from central government back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils. “Such local democratic engagement is facilitated by council websites in a way it could not be done by a centralised local government website,” says Socitm. 

In addition, the cost savings from a single local government website are unlikely to be as great as some might assume. The major area of cost is not the website itself, but integration between it and back office systems, complicated by the variety of systems, processes and providers in place (including outsourced provision). 

Also, the logistics of not only developing and also sustaining a single local government website would be daunting. But Socitm welcomes and actively supports the development of a common platform to enable the sharing of software tools and applications used in local government, including those that support self-service delivery through local authorities’ websites and other digital channels. 

Socitm’s Better connected also pointed out that attempts to create single software solutions for local government do not have a good track record. Examples include the national project to create a single content management system for local government (Aplaws) funded by ODPM (forerunner of the Department of Communities and Local Government) in the e-government era up to 2005, and another project in the same era to create a common platform for fire service-related web transactions. 

Socitm president Nick Roberts said: “It’s not difficult to sign up to the idea that if there are transactions all local councils are operating, we only need to build once and share. In real life things are much more complicated, but the principle holds.” 

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