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'Failure to engage citizens'

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Investment in e-government doesn't seem to have had the desired effect, if a new MORI poll is to be believed. Although the £2.5bn invested in improving access to information and services has undoubtedly transformed the way some local authorities do business, overall satisfaction with local authorities was found to have dropped 10 per cent over the last three years.

Performance management outfit Perspective Solutions, says that a focus on technology and delivery of services has come at the expense of usability.

"E-government is failing to engage UK citizens because of a lack of internet access as well as systems that are often unusable and overly complex, as anyone who has tried to file tax returns online via the Inland Revenue or looked for information on a local government website can testify," says Phil Reed, CEO of Perspective Solutions.

He argues that e-government initiatives are failing to meet their two main objectives: reducing the cost of local services and making the services more accessible to local citizens. "Technology has to be seen as a tool for achieving better public sector services, not an end result in itself. Otherwise, e-Government can never succeed," Reed concludes.

Reed's criticisms seem a little harsh, especially given the good work than some councils are doing: making it possible for people to pay council tax online, or setting up webcams so people can check for queues at the local dump before setting out with a load of old furniture, for example. But this kind of progress is not universal.

We assume Perspective Solutions has just the piece of software to sort out those councils who are less on the ball. It'd be astonishing if they didn't, really. ®

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