Headlines: October 10th, 2001

Five councils spanning four counties in the East Midlands have joined up to form the Welland Partnership to bring e-government to 350,000 people. The Partnership has chosen Software AG, Europe’s largest systems software company, to develop the Welland Portal, an innovative, multi-agency project that will give easy access to the information and services available from public, private, voluntary and community sectors across the 11 market towns in the Welland area.The portal is an integration project which represents an organisational and cultural challenge as well as a technical one. Traditionally councils maintain a strict independence and although they carry out the same functions, processes are tailored to their own particular circumstances. Even where the offices of two councils are in the same street this independence is maintained. Attempts to encourage a more collaborative approach with shared facilities have been largely unsuccessful. This project breaks new ground by seeking to change the culture.

The lever of change is the DTLR’s 25 million pounds Pathfinder budget. The project is one of 20 successful bids to develop e-government initiatives and to create centres of expertise from which all local government can learn. All bidders had to demonstrate that their services joined up with other councils, central government or the voluntary sector.