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Councils won't meet 2005 target

Labour's e-government plans hit a major setback this week after research revealed more than half of local authorities do not...

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Labour's e-government plans hit a major setback this week after research revealed more than half of local authorities do not expect to meet the 2005 targets for putting all services online.

The Society of IT Management's (Socitm) IT Trends in Local Government 2002/3 report found that 15% of councils will not even try to meet the 2005 deadline. Instead, they are selecting the services for which electronic delivery is likely to yield the greatest benefit and concentrating on these.

Peter Facey, director of independent think-tank the New Politics Network, said, "I cannot say that I am that surprised - if you have got a limited amount of money it makes sense to target those areas with the highest impact."

Socitm also reported that, on average, 30% of council services are now available online, up from 25% last year.

The survey, based on about 200 responses from IT managers in the 441 councils in England, Scotland and Wales, revealed that 98% of authorities have appointed an e-champion to lead their e-government programmes. It also found that more than 66% of councils have undertaken public consultation on e-government.

Local government IT managers see the results as reflecting a changing emphasis in e-government. Roy Cosway, corporate IT services manager at Cornwall County Council, said, "I am not at all surprised. The Government has hinted that it is more interested in the high-volume e-government transactions." Local authorities have taken this to be a stepping back from the target of having 100% of services online by 2005, he added.

The Government has hit back at the findings, claiming that the research is "dated". A spokeswoman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said, "The report is limited in scope as it is based on the views of IT managers rather than of those responsible for implementing the e-government strategy."

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