Local authorities lack cash to meet e-government targets

Hazel Ward

Local authorities will be hard pressed to meet IT goals laid down by the Government in its Information Age...

Hazel Ward

Local authorities will be hard pressed to meet IT goals laid down by the Government in its Information Age targets.

The Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm), which represents local authority IT directors, has issued a formal response to the government consultation paper Information Age Government - Targets for Local Government.

It warned that councils faced, "major resourcing problems - both in terms of internal management expertise and capital and revenue funding."

Ministers have put up an extra £350m over three years to help local authorities fund e-government. However, Socitm said councils required long-term funding to meet the government's targets. One medium-sized authority put the figure at between £15 and £20m.

Tim Dawes, consultant to Socitm, said £350m of seed money would not be enough to cover the costs of meeting Information Age deadlines. "Most local authorities are going to have to develop e-government in parallel with traditional services, and that is inevitably going to mean extra cost."

Management expertise, he added, would also be at a premium with individual authorities having to foot the costs of bringing in external help.

Socitm said the responsibility for setting detailed timetables for implementing the changes should be in the hands of individual local authorities, rather being centrally directed.

"When you're measuring performance, you can't expect all authorities to perform at the same rate - it's going to be different from authority to authority," said Dawes. "In a poor area the roll-out of public access to IT might contribute to economic regeneration, but in a more wealthy area, it wouldn't have the same effect."

This was last published in August 2000

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