Making transactions on-line is more efficient than posting a cheque or taking cash to the town hall, but another incentive to boost on-line activity is that it is a way to reduce the carbon footprint. A new report from Communities and Local Government demonstrates that moving activity on-line has a significant impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Local Government Minister Parmjit Dhanda has urged everyone in the public sector to recognise the potential of boosting on-line take-up of services.
The evidence to support this conclusion came from independent researchers working with Sunderland City Council in the areas of planning applications, schools applications, Registrar’s certificate requests for births, deaths and marriages, council tax payments and environmental services enquiries. Varying levels of these activities are currently carried out on-line, for example in the case of Council Tax 59 per cent of transactions are made on line. The researchers made assumptions about the potential for moving more transactions on-line and for Council Tax they assumed that it was reasonable to increase this figure to 80 per cent.
The impact of savings made from boosting on-line transactions was then calculated by estimating the hourly CO2 impact of the energy and materials required to support a member of office staff with electricity, heating, stationery, office equipment and commuting as well as savings by the service user. The energy savings were then grossed up from Sunderland to all councils across England and it is estimated that the total saving is more than 14,000 tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to the average annual domestic energy use of more than 2000 UK households.
The report makes it clear that the assumed take-up of on-line services is conservative and that the scaled-up totals only represent the savings available for the five local government services included in the study. Local government delivers more than 750 different services.