Councils fear IT funding drought after hitting e-government targets

Council IT leaders are increasingly worried about the prospect of a drought in IT funding after the 2005 e-government targets...

Council IT leaders are increasingly worried about the prospect of a drought in IT funding after the 2005 e-government targets expire, Chris Guest, president of Socitm, the council IT professional’s association has warned.

Central government grants for e-government projects to put services online will run out at the end of 2005.

"Our members are concerned about whether IT funding will be sustained beyond 2005 when e-government funding dries up," said Guest.

He said that for many councils the process of using IT to transform business processes was just beginning.

Richard Steel, head of IT at Newham Council, echoed Guest’s concerns. "The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister should not create the impression that the job is done. This [the e-government programme] is a major strategic change and it takes time. We have made a good start, but it is just a start.

"The leading local government sites have done the front-end, but all the value comes from transforming the organisation and that is where we need to go."

He called on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to make explicit the link between effective e-government and the efficiency savings expected by central government initiatives such as the Gershon Review, which has demanded 2.5% savings across the public sector.

To make the most of local e-government initiatives, they need to be able to link with other local public sector organisations to make the efficiency central government expects, said Steel. "The danger is that our [e-government] projects will flounder because they cannot make the link to other organisations. That sort of thing is going on many times across the country."

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said local government minister Phil Hope had promoted the link between e-government and efficiency savings.

The department had published research showing that national projects, developed as a beacon of e-government excellence, could save councils £320m if implemented across England and Wales. The government has announced the end of central funding for these national projects in 2006.

There were no further plans to promote e-government to councils as a means of delivering the Gershon targets, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said.

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