The pace of development towards providing all services electronically by 2005 will have to speed up if the target is to be met. The latest survey of council websites by the Society of IT Managers reveals that 2% of the 467 councils in the UK provide a range of electronic services that meet the 2005 target requirements. Overall the number of transactions available has increased by 50% duiring the last year, but from a low base. The majority of sites (69%) carry basic information.There has been slow progress in improving websites and 66% have remained unchanged in the last year. An encouraging sign is that councils are getting better at responding to e-mail enquiries with 67% replying to a test e-mail query within 3 days, compared to 34% in the previous year.
A comparison of website survey results with the Audit Commission’s comprehensive performance assessment ratings shows that a good quality website is an indication of a high performing council. Five of the seven top sites achieved an excellent rating in the performance assessment. The survey also revealed that councils with an ‘excellent’ rating are twice as likely to have a top rated website.
The survey included research commissioned from MORI about awareness and experience of using council sites. The research found that 19% of Internet users made use of a council site in the year. This compares with 10% for UK Online. People using council sites for the first time were impressed by the benefits of doing so.