Web-phobic councils need to wake up

The people want email...
Written by Gemma Simpson, Contributor

The people want email...

Local councils are frustrating communities with their old-fashioned attitude towards using email.

Despite drives to get citizens online it seems local authorities are not listening to their own advice, with 66 per cent of councils still contacting constituents by snail mail.

However, 69 per cent of citizens surveyed preferred to receive information via the web or email, uncovering a huge missed opportunity for local councils to get their message to the man on the street, according to research from public sector software developer Caps Solutions.

Conservative MP Grant Shapps holds different views to his technophobic counterparts in Westminster and says he has regular email contact with more than 10 per cent of his constituents on a weekly basis.

Shapps told silicon.com: "The research indicates there's a big appetite for people who use the web and internet, and the local authorities need to recognise this and speed up their usage of the internet."

Shapps said local authorities can also save money by ditching snail mail in favour of email.

But Simon Norbury, head if ICT at Westminster City Council, warned of problems when using email. He said: "It is unacceptable to rely on email to account for official correspondence which may not be in use. In contrast, snail mail addresses do not change."

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Norbury said Westminster is working in this area and with Government Connect - an initiative aimed at joining up local government and enabling secure data-sharing - to address some of these issues over technology use in local councils.

In June Westminster Council launched online parking permit renewals - a scheme which has since been taken up by 30 per cent of residents.

Shapps has been shortlisted for a New Statesman award for his innovative approach to using technology within his constituency

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