Local authority websites are a core delivery channel for public services according to Socitm, the public sector IT managers’ organisation, but only one in three offer transactional services.

Marking the publication of the 10th edition of Socitm’s Better Connected report on local authority web sites, Janet Callender, chief executive of Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council said, “Increasingly, our websites are underpinning front line service delivery, improving efficiency and effectiveness, and they provide a window through which an organisation’s culture and attitude towards customer services can be judged.”

Better Connected found four sites achieved the top (excellent) rating in 2008 survey compared with one in 2007 - East Sussex; Gloucestershire; Salford City and Tameside.

A further 18 sites narrowly missed out on the top rank with 11 authorities falling down on accessibility criteria, while 43 sites were designated as excellent for content, but not usability and six rated excellent for usability and not content.

The advance of online services continues with 165 sites rated as transactional - up from 121 in 2007.

The survey highlighted a number of shortcomings, with Socitm saying, “Poor usability continues to let down many online services reliant on third party software.”

The Society also warned that “Too many registration facilities remain insecure and ask for inappropriate data,” but added that there was a general improvement in site resilience.

These are spread reasonably evenly across types of council and across regions in England. There are now nine transactional sites in Scotland and four in Wales. Overall the survey shows 73 per cent of sites are ‘Standard’, 26% are ‘Transactional’ and 1% are ‘Excellent’.

The survey examined 468 council websites in November and December 2007; together with an additional 83 sites from other parts of the public sector. Sites were eveluated around five ‘scenarios’ based on typical website user needs. These were:

  • Looking for information about libraries,
  • Using registration services (ie births, marriages & deaths)
  • Arranging waste collection and recycling
  • Obtaining housing information
  • Finding out about council tax and finance

Based on performance in the main survey, the top ten local authority sites in 2008 are:

  • Barking & Dagenham
  • Bracknell Forest
  • Brighton & Hove
  • Clackmannanshire
  • East Riding of Yorkshire
  • East Sussex
  • Gloucestershire
  • Greenwich
  • Haringey
  • Merton