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Whitehall is to shut down 551 websites to make access to information easier for citizens and businesses, a Cabinet Office minister has said.

Launching the delayed Transformational Government annual report 2006, Pat McFadden said over half of central government websites will face closure over the next year.

90 of the 551 websites have already been closed. Agreed dates for the remaining are expected to be released shortly.

Relevant information from the closed websites will be transferred to the governments 'super websites', Directgov and Business Link.

The closure of the sites is expected to save the Treasury £9m over three years.

Out of the total of 951 central government websites, 26 are "certain" to be retained, says the report. A further 374 of the 951 will be reviewed for possible closure by June 2007.

McFadden said on 10 January 2007: "This report demonstrates how millions of people are benefiting from our use of technology every day.

"We are dealing decisively with the proliferation of government websites - getting rid of more than 500 - and we are ensuring that the quality of our services will not be affected by these changes."

Prior to McFadden's speech at the Transformational Government II conference, organised by Kable, a Cabinet Office spokesperson told GC News: "The Cabinet Office alone has made an annual saving of £174,000 by closing all of its websites apart from its corporate website.

"As for non-finance benefits for citizens they are immeasurable. People do not want to surf the net for information; they want to find it as quickly as possible. Our ultimate aim to to close 95 per cent of Whitehall's websites."

Directgov, launched in 2004, receives over 5m visits a month. It currently involves 18 government departments and has links to services in nearly all 388 councils in England.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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