back to article Unsurprising report: UK local govt sites remain totally crap

Although tech is often characterised as a fast-paced industry, in local government IT change happens at more glacial speeds, at least according to a report on the councils' websites. A study by public sector organisation the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM) found local authority websites have "failed to …

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Unhappy

A classic example

I saw an article in the newspaper, by the council about a certain scheme they are running.

Can I find it on the website?

No.

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I just asked for FOI request about my local councils website cost, won't be holding my breath for that. I also asked why the council issue their own summons for council tax default, which is not legal or lawful. Country is run by Gangsters and the stupids just watch it going on. Rant over.

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Anonymous Coward

...and people who don't pay their dues

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I expect your FOI request will be denied on the grounds that information is already available. It should be in council budget minutes, and that's where they will redirect you.

Now, if you can't find the minutes of the budget minutes on their website, that's a different kettle of fish. That's the sort of thing you need to refer to someone with bite (ODPM? NAO? no idea who these days) because there is a serious proper legal duty to publish council minutes.

That will get you investment costs, anyway. TCO they probably don't know themselves...

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In the City of Aberdeen our Councillors are so crap nobody WANTS to find them!

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You're not wrong

Generally agree 100%, although our local council has got some quite neat GIS stuff on their site - if you know where to find it! Map search by house name (very useful in rural Wales to help lost Fedex bods). Really ace problem reporting pages too - zoom in on map and mark the location, fill in form with details of fly-tipping, broken street lights etc and bingo. And they update you on progress via e-mail

But site navigation generally sucks!

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Ya pay peanuts.

I've worked with chaps who ran IT in local councils. As talented as these guys were, they were paid a pittance, swamped with idiotic management, changing priorities, empire building, hamstrung by a lack of resources and a resistance to change that, if in the private sector, would mean the company moving swiftly into bankruptcy.

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Re: Ya pay peanuts.

Totally agree!! Having worked in Local Council IT for nearly 30 years, nothing really changes - if you do nothing, you're criticised. If you decide to do something (i.e. spend money), you're under spotlight to account for everything. The ultimate defence, do nothing "But it's always been done that way!!!" then no blame can acrue. Very soul destroying (and career crippling). The best young guns leave very quickly leaving just the old stagers behind.

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FAIL

Local and national govt websites are pretty crap.

I've always found it difficult or impossible to find any specific information either at local or national level. This usually results in a phone call... assuming they even have a contactable number where you can get put through to someone who knows anything about their own services. Contacting them by email tends to be less than successful as the email is either ignored or they reply with a generic link to their main website page that doesn't give the information requested anyway.

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Re: This usually results in a phone call

My local council has this covered - they've replaced their receptionists with voice recognition software. If your enquiry isn't about "bins" or "council tax" your chances of being able to reach anyone are quite remote.

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Anonymous Coward

IT in the public sector is normally there to put as much distance between those who are responsible and responsibility for something. Anything else is surplus to requirements.

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Not only in the public sector

This is SOP of modern management.

If anything, making sure that the public facing bods can't even contact those actually responsible is more prevalent in the private sector. If you don't hear any complaints you can assume your customers are happy and can happily go off for a long, boozy lunch with the other inhabitants of the C-suite.

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I used to work in local government. Most people don't even know which of their local councils does what. We regularly used to get emails about the County Hall building - even though the county council had a totally different name from us, and a VERY big sign saying which council it belonged to.

As an aside, if 'ModernGov' is descended from APLAWS, then... no, I'm not going there. Let's leave that oen dead and buried.

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Flame

Have to mention Birmingham

who spunked £2,000,000 (yes, million) on writing a custom website which is in effect, a CMS system.

Apparently "there's nothing quite like it on the market" was the justification for not using FOSS.

If you goto Birmingham city councils website I'm sure you'll agree. There really is nothing like it on earth.

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Re: Have to mention Birmingham

The Birmingham city council's website looks like it's using the Fatwire CMS (now an Oracle product). I know Fatwire licenses are expensive, but not THAT expensive!

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Anonymous Coward

Fatwire

they may well have junked the previous development. Not that we'd know, transparency ? What's that ?

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Unhappy

Re: Have to mention Birmingham

I found the Birmingham site easy to navigate, but then again I am/was a librarian so I do have an edge over lesser mortals.lol

Found it easy to find libraries that were permantly/temporarily closed and people wonder why levels of literacy are falling...Google is not the answer.

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Re: Have to mention Birmingham

However, the rigid adherence to a CMS is the cause of a UX-clusterfuck on many a council website.

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Anonymous Coward

Cornwall councils website is actually pretty good. Same can't be said about the councillors and senior council fuckwits

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Facepalm

I have found that to find specific information on crap sites, as long as its not using an intranet, is to search externally:

searchengine [search argument] site:crapsite.gov.uk

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Meh

Who's in charge ?

" . . . which political party is in control of the council . . ."

Is that not a good indicator of how the Officials - at both local and national level - regard the elected Officials whether they be Councillors or MPs ?

I have to say my own local council web-site - West Lothian - has improved over the last five years. I had occasion to search for something today and what I was looking for was actually on the first page of suggestions.

Chris Cosgrove

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