Council IT managers' association Socitm has said councils should share web content to facilitate shared service arrangements.

"Spending cuts are forcing public sector organisations to embrace self-service as a tool to deliver effective services at low cost. But very few local councils have considered sharing resources when it comes to their websites," said Socitm.

'Better connected 2011', Socitm’s annual report on council websites, said sharing website content is an "obvious solution" to keeping up to date the large number of pages found on council websites.  

Sharing applications such as job search, school/youth services, planning, and council tax could not only cut costs but make it easier for citizens to serve themselves, said Socitm.

In a new briefing Socitm also says local councils can use major government websites such as Directgov, Businesslink and NHS Choices to bolster content.

Martin Greenwood, editor of Better connected and author of the self service, shared service briefing, said, "Sharing content, applications and resources, whether locally, regionally or nationally, is a strategy that will deliver the change that is necessary at the speed that is now required."

The briefing also describes "a more conventional form of shared services" in which the same web team supports two or more different council websites. A case cited is that of Carlisle City and Allerdale, two district councils that are sharing web resources as part of a wider shared ICT service.

The two websites use the same content management system, the same templates and the same e-forms, although the branding of the two sites is different. "There is no reason why this approach might not be implemented elsewhere," said Socitm.