Socitm calls for shake-up in council website management

Public sector IT managers' association Socitm is proposing a new model for council website development "involving radical change to governance and management practice".

The call comes after Socitm published its annual Better Connected 2012 report into the performance of council websites. The report revealed that only 23 councils out of a total of 433 (five percent) achieved the top rating of four stars for their websites.

Socitm said a council's website has become "critical" for delivering services effectively at a lower cost, so the site's role and performance has become an issue for the "top team".

A large number of sites, according to a Socitm briefing to members, must increase mobile access and the use of social media. Council websites also need to enable a high degree of self-service in order to deliver significant savings from the reduction in face-to-face meetings and phone services for citizens.

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Relatively few local authorities have addressed these needs, Socitm said. "The clutter and confusion of the worst council websites reflect lack of clarity about the purpose of the website, and reveal the compromises that web teams have to make in order to balance competing interests," it said.

Council leaders and managers must accept that the main purpose of the website is to deliver services, Socitm said. "News about the council and its activities, and communication of policies and plans, have a place on the website, but must not get in the way of the primary task of delivering services."

The briefing sent to members said strong corporate direction of the website must replace "what is sometimes a battle of interests over control and management of key space on the website".

Shared services, the government's G-cloud, and other local government transformational activities will be discussed at Socitm's spring conference in London on 25 April 2012.