Headlines: March 26th, 2001

Amid rising concerns that local government will not make its 2005 target for electronic delivery of services, a new report sets out a route map to achievement.It offers Local Direct – a single advertised telephone number – as one possible nationally joined up way in which local councils could successfully make themselves accessible to people who generally have a very poor understanding of which council is responsible for which service.

Winning the e-Revolution, launched at a conference jointly hosted by the New Local Government Network, a modernising think tank, and the IDeA, the Government-sponsored improvement agency for the sector, reflects on how local government generally is not yet giving electronic delivery of services sufficient priority.

It responds to recent evidence that only 25% of chief officers and 10% of political leaders have “a good understanding” of e-government. Few have project plans for delivering electronic services by 2005. Very few political leaders see e-government as a central political objective.

It also points to a significant shortage of project management and procurement skills.

To combat this, it calls for a significant level of joint working, pointing out how inefficient it would be to have 238 different billing authorities set up 238 systems to allow people to pay their council tax online.

And, ignoring the strictest of definitions about ‘electronic’, it points to how two thirds of people will still prefer to use the phone and defines success in 2005 as answering 85% of all telephone calls within 15 seconds, providing one-stop fulfilment for 85% of public contacts, and public satisfaction secured 85% of the time.

Achieving that might mean a single national number – perhaps called Local Direct, which would then be re-routed to local call centres operational during an extended range of opening hours.

Information would be available for a wide range of services, not just those provided by a single council.

It does also call for people being able to receive or commission services in selected high-profile functions over the internet.

Link: www.nlgn.org.uk