Cost doubts over Blair's plans

Local authority staff remain enthusiastic about e-government, but they are still worried about who will pay for implementing Tony...

Local authority staff remain enthusiastic about e-government, but they are still worried about who will pay for implementing Tony Blair's plans, according to a new survey

Mike Simons

Local authority staff remain enthusiastic about e-government, but they are still worried about who will pay for implementing Tony Blair's plans, according to a new survey.

The prime minister has said that by 2005 all government services should be available electronically. Of those surveyed, 63% thought this was possible with extra funding, while 15% thought it was impossible, even with extra cash.

The survey of 150 local authority decision-makers was conducted by TBC Research for Local Government Chronicle magazine and software supplier Cedar Group. Some 56% said they would struggle to meet Blair's target of 25% availability by 2002, while 37% were confident of success.

The Society of IT Management (Socitm) has repeatedly expressed concern at how targets for e-government are defined, and those surveyed agreed. An overwhelming 78% said the targets were not clearly defined.

Much of the talk about e-government highlights the need to cut costs, but 57% of those surveyed thought the most important aspect of the move was the chance to improve relationships with the public. Just 3% said cost reduction was key.

The survey says the biggest challenges in implementing e-government are: integrating legacy systems (36%), justifying extra spending (30%), security of information (24%) and identifying appropriate IT suppliers (9%).

The Government is pushing e-procurement, but 60% of staff reported that their authority had no e-procurement strategy. Of the 20% that did some 26% were using electronic data interchange, while 30% were using portals and another 30% were using online catalogues.

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