Headlines: January 20th, 2006

A single point of contact for public services is now available at http://www.directgov.gov.uk/Diol1/DoItOnline/fs/en   The Directgov site has been extended to include local government services with the launch of Local Directgov. The site, which already receives about one million visits per month, now provides direct links to a local authority’s specific service by a post code search. The site focuses on customer need and joins up services so that the user does not need to know who provides a particular service. This has long been the aim of service providers and with the launch of the first phase of Local Directgov it is now in sight of achievement.The site displays generic topics such as education and learning, finding childcare, getting information about local schools, looking for courses, health and well-being, finding local doctors and dentists, getting advice on travel, health and leisure and recreation. Transactions and interactions are secure and in one session it is possible to pay Council Tax, apply for a school place and report a street light not working or an abandoned vehicle.

The service will play an important role in increasing the use of online public services. In recent years the focus of eGovernment programmes has been on making services available on-line to meet the December 2005 target deadline. Marketing the services has been patchy with the result the great majority of people who want information or wish to make a transaction with a public body continue to use the telephone or call at an office. This is despite the fact that over half the population have access to the Internet. Providing a single point of contact will simplify marketing and it is hoped encourage people to change their attitudes so that they think first about logging on before picking up the telephone.

The first phase of Local Directgov provides a limited range of facilities and not all councils are yet connected. In the next phase it is planned to bring in all councils and extend the range of facilities on offer.