Local councils hit first e-government deadline

The DTLR has confirmed that 94 percent of English councils have sumitted their UK Online strategies in time for the 31 July deadline

Nine out of ten English councils have submitted strategies for getting their services online in time for the 31 July deadline, the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) has confirmed.

The "Implementing Electronic Government" (IEG) strategy statements were handed in by 94 percent of 388 councils in England last week, according to the E-Government Bulletin. The 25 councils that missed the deadline will be encouraged to comply within the next few weeks.

The IEG reports set out how local councils plan to meet UK Online objectives by providing all of their services online by 2005. "Any service that can be done electronically must be included in the strategy," said a spokesman at the DTLR. Councils are not under any statutory requirements to comply with the e-government programme, but "ultimately they will have to answer to their citizens if they fail to secure any money," said a source quoted by the E-Government Bulletin.

The statements will now be assessed by DTLR officials and the government-funded Improvement and Development Agency (IDA). Over the next few weeks, the government will be providing support to councils that have submitted inadequate reports, advising them on how to make their e-government strategies as efficient and effective as possible. A report will be released in September by the DTLR to comment on how successful the individual strategies are.

Councils that pass this first hurdle will be eligible for a share of the £350m that has been earmarked for the e-government projects by the DTLR. Twenty-five million pounds has already been spent on 25 forerunner projects that launched in March, to help more than 100 councils to develop better electronic services. A further £325m will be divided up among all participating councils over the next two years, according to the scale of their IT plans.

"The funding will help them to buy in expertise, since as a government department we have to look at using other resources in the field," said the DTLR spokesman. "We've made no decision as to how the money will be divided at this stage."

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