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Yesterday saw the official launch of the Local Directgov programme.

Led by the London Borough of Brent and London Connects, and supported by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the new initiative will provide web surfers with links to local authority resources when searching for information through the main UK public sector portal, Directgov.

Local Directgov is a simple, robust means of providing citizens access to all government services, both at the local and central levels. In recent months, all 388 English local authorities were requested to provide links to key local resources and services that will be accessed directly through Directgov. A series of manual and automated checks are made regularly to ensure web links do not break or become out of date.

When requesting a service such as paying Council Tax via the Directgov portal, visitors are first requested to identify their local authority. Surfers are presented with options to enter their postcode, street and town, or local authority. Once their request is submitted, the system will search for and present the Council Tax payment page of the relevant local authority.

Commenting on the launch of the programme, Local e-Government Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, said: "I believe the Local Directgov programme is making a significant contribution to local e-Government. It will prove an invaluable aid to local authorities, helping them to meet efficiency targets, increase traffic to local authority websites and encourage citizen take-up of those online services. When fully developed, it has the potential to revolutionise how citizens interact with government, offering a more customer-focused, joined-up approach."

Dane Wright, IT strategy and service development manager at Brent, said: "The Local Directgov programme will benefit both councils and citizens alike. The programme will help local authorities ensure their services are more easily accessible - transcending physical boundaries via the internet and making the access of information more convenient."

The service provided by Local Directgov is similar to ones offered by other portals, but is far more accurate as it is the only one that offers direct deep-linking to English local authority sites. Other portals tend to rely on results from search engines, which tend to be less reliable.

The programme will continue to engage with all English local authorities until March 2006 to collect a further, fuller set of data and inputting it into esd-toolkit, to create more detailed links between Directgov and local authority websites.®

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