Local councils give thumbs up to e-gov

Promise more cash

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Local government spending on e-government will remain strong despite the end of incentives from Whitehall, according to new research by Kable.

The research, commissioned by e-government solutions provider EzGov Europe, shows that UK local authorities' spending on the relevant services will total about £1.4bn over the next two years, accounting for about 20 per cent of their total ICT spend.

The e-government sector includes all expenditure related to delivering web based IT services.

Although central government funds for e-government spending dried up in 2006, the pressure for efficiency savings is prompting councils to make new investments in the area. This can help them to save money and design better service processes.

As a result, they no longer require a "carrot" in the form of Whitehall grants to undertake e-government investment.

Among the details of the research is that spending on customer facing e-government initiatives is expected to grow from £660m in 2006 to £709m by 2008. Specific areas where e-government spending is expected to grow on a local level include housing benefit, social security payments, transport, and education, as well as the whole area of back office integration between teams and departments.

The greatest need for e-government is in corporate services and cross-departmental integration, but other areas will move up the priority list, especially the transformation of the back office. The areas of lowest take-up appear to be non-core, such as booking sports and leisure facilities, or those that are difficult to implement, such as the integration of planning, regulation and licensing functions.

Scott Bryan, associate director at Kable Research, said: "This research has clearly shown that local authorities in the UK have seen the tangible benefits e-government brings. It enables councils to overcome the challenge of having to deliver more for less. Cost savings, improved customer service and more streamlined delivery of local services naturally result from well designed e-government.

"We have reached a turning point in how e-government is viewed. It is no longer seen as an expense that central government has demanded they incur. It is a fundamental part of becoming a better council."

Frank Moyer, chief executive officer of EzGov Europe, said: "Local authorities realise that they need to develop online government services to keep up with public demand for easier and more efficient access to services and information. They are also beginning to wake up to the huge cost of maintaining inefficient manual processes and legacy back office IT systems to support the delivery of these services to the public."

The research involved reviewing the status and plans of 63 of the 387 local authorities in England and Wales.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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