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Socitm: Council websites getting better

The local government IT body has noted an improvement in council websites in line with their growing importance to citizens
Written by Tim Ferguson, Contributor

Web services are becoming an increasingly important way for citizens to interact with local government, and councils are responding with improved websites.

The number of visitors to council websites increased by more than 10 percent in the past 12 months, according to the 2008 Better Connected report from local government IT body the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm).

The number of local government websites offering transactional services — such as online council tax payment — has increased by 36 percent.

Other improvements noted by Socitm include better information and news, greater use of plain English and improved search services.

Four councils achieved an "excellent" rating for their websites, compared to just one last year — although numerous websites were close behind.

The four sites rated as excellent are those belonging to East Sussex County Council, Gloucestershire County Council, Salford City Council and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council.

But the survey also found some council online services still suffer from poor usability, while others are insecure or request inappropriate data.

Martin Greenwood, programme manager for Socitm Insight and author of the report, said that, with widespread internet access, there should be a focus on encouraging greater levels of uptake of online services and improving customer access.

Janet Callender, chief executive of Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, said websites are increasingly underpinning frontline services and improve efficiency.

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