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The UK Government's Web sites are a shambles and in urgent need of an overhaul, according to an independent report published today.

The state of the UK's drive to e-government is so bad, even the Prime Minister's own site is described as a "mess" and is ranked 19th out of 20 "flagship" sites tested against the Government's own guidelines.

The damning report - commissioned by Web design outfit Interactive Bureau, London and conducted by Porter Research - asks: "What is the point of the Prime Minister...having a site, which announces the opportunity for foreign journalists to ask him questions, yet gives no opportunity for members of the British Public to do so?"

According to the report, the site - 10 Downing Street - is really duff because its navigation is inept, there is a lack of attention to detail and it is poorly maintained.

Oh, and because the coding is of a low standard and because whole sections of the site are poorly named. And...because it's incredibly slow to load, it doesn't work properly with some browsers, and because it allows no way for members of the public to contact either the Prime Minister or his office.

The report found three quarters of all the Government's Web sites are in need of an overhaul, with the most widespread and aggravating fault being the presentation of information, which is often dumped on Web sites and littered with jargon.

One example from the Child Support Agency (CSA) is regarded as typical of the nonsense dished up by Government.

In the section on How the CSA works, it says: "When Income Support or income based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) (and in the case of the PWC, WFTC or DPTC) is paid to a parent or to someone else for that parent, their assessable income will be taken to be nil. When the NRP is in receipt of Income Support or income based JSA they are required to make a minimum contribution to maintenance by a deduction from benefit unless they are exempt."

Commenting on the lamentable state of the Government's Web sites, Adrian Porter of Porter Research said: "It leads one to ask what is the point of spending all that money with the aim of bringing Government closer to the people, if the end result is the same forbidding 'closed' mentality of officialdom writ larger than ever before?"

No-one from the Government was available for comment at the time of writing. ®

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