Government to abandon wasteful websites

29 June 2010

29 June 2010 | Isabel Palmer

The UK government has pledged to scrap hundreds of its own unnecessary and expensive websites, which are currently costing millions.

A report by the Central Office for Information (COI) found that more than a quarter of government organisations did not know the costs of their own websites. Last year the most expensive site was uktradeinvest.gov.uk at £11.78 per visit.

A total of £94 million was spent on the construction and running costs, plus an additional £32 million on staff, for just 46 websites across government in 2009-10.

The study also discovered money has been wasted as a result of competition between departments. The Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Energy Saving Trust were found to have been bidding against each other for Google search terms in the past year. Paying for particular search terms can determine how prominent your website appears on a Google search.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced that “the days of ‘vanity’ sites are over”.

“It is not good enough to have websites which do not deliver the high quality services which people expect and deserve.”

As part of the efficiency drive, all 820 existing government-funded websites will be reviewed to see how expensive they are, how well used they are and whether they could share more resources.

The government has committed to make immediate savings of £6.2 billion. It will do this in part by shutting down up to three-quarters of existing sites and slashing the costs of any remaining websites by up to 50 per cent, and moving on to common infrastructures.

Internet entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox has been appointed as the government’s new "digital champion" to transform public services online and increase the number of people using the sites.  

She will look at sharing government resources and facilities and using low-cost open source products or free software to reduce running costs.

No new websites will be permitted except for those that pass through a stringent exceptions process and are cleared by the central Efficiency and Reform Group.

This first report only covers websites run by ministerial and non-ministerial government departments. Future reports will also cover all websites overseen by central government bodies, including those belonging to executive agencies, non-departmental public bodies and other arm’s-length public bodies. The next review will be by the Spending Review in September.

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