Correspondence from Mr Richard Dudding, Director
General, Strategy and Corporate Services, Office of Deputy Prime
Minister and Department for Transport
REPORT BY THE COMPTROLLER AND AUDITOR GENERAL: Government on the
Web II (HC 764)
Following the machinery of government changes
announced on 29 May, DTLR no longer exists as a Department. This
will have implications for your hearing on 12 June and the witnesses
you wish to call.
I thought, however, that I should send you anyway
the memorandum that Richard Mottram would have submitted to you.
Whilst this refers throughout to DTLR, most of what is said will
hold good under the new arrangements. The one caveat is that the
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and the Department
for Transport (DfT) will need to take their own decisions on development
of web sites, reflecting their new identities.
I should for completeness add that whilst the
majority of DTLR responsibilities have been split between ODPM
and DfT, electoral matters have transferred to the Lord Chancellor's
Department, who will therefore take over former DTLR responsibilities
30 May 2002
Government on the Web II
DTLR is absolutely committed to the e-government
agenda, and is on-course to meet the Government's target of e-enabling
all services by 2005. The Government on the Web II report gives
us some useful insights, which we look forward to discussing with
We are pleased that the NAO report confirmed
that DTLR's e-Business Strategy is balanced and should enable
DTLR to realise its e-business vision. Our vision is of accessible,
reliable customer-focused services that improve the delivery of
DTLR's objectives, and support the broader Modernising Government
agenda. The recent launch of the Planning Portal is an early example
of the work we are doing to deliver this vision.
The report's recommendations for DTLR focused
in two key areasthe Web site and local e-government. I
thought it would be useful to set out for the Committee in advance
of the hearing on 12 June some of the action already underway
or planned in these areas. Obviously I will be able to discuss
the issues in more detail with the Committee at the hearing.
The NAO concluded that DTLR should continue
to invest in its Web site and move towards developing a more interactive
site. A number of specific recommendations were made about how
the Web site should be improved. We acknowledge the criticisms
made about the Web site. As a result of the first Government on
the Web report, DETR (as was) recruited a professionally qualified
Web site manager. The site is currently being redeveloped and
is due to be re-launched in December 2002. The "next generation"
have an improved, more professional
have a better search engine, providing
improved retrieval facilities;
make it simpler to locate non-English
language materials, primarily in Welsh, but in other languages
as they become available;
enable better use of audio and video
technology to complement campaigns, such as THINK! and fire safety;
provide the technical foundation
for the development of interactive and commerce based activities,
such as consultation and licensing; and
provide opportunities for personalisation
to improve the user experience.
As noted by the NAO, the introduction of content
management software will make it easier for content providers
within DTLR(C) to provide Web site content. As a result of the
NAO investigation, we bought all domains for DTLR, so now addresses
such as dtlr.info, dtlr.co.uk etc. automatically direct users
to the DTLR site. The recommendation of using subject-based names
is very much in line with Office of the e-Envoy thinking and we
are working with them on that.
In terms of assessing web site usage, DTLR has
a strong record on evaluation. We use a variety of measures to
assess Web site use and to obtain citizens' views on what should
be improved. We have had a questionnaire about the site, and also
receive feedback through a dedicated webmaster e-mail account.
I am pleased to provide the Committee with copies
of the draft National Strategy e-gov@local: towards a national
strategy for local e-government that was published in April for
consultation. Given this timing, the draft national strategy could
not be reflected in the NAO report.
The Government is committed to improving public
services. The use of e-government can help transform the quality
of local services and the organisations that deliver them. Local
government is important in this context for two key reasons. Firstly,
the number of transactions by local government vastly exceeds
that of central government. Secondly, local councils are the natural
point of focus around which all local public services can be most
efficiently joined together.
Every council now acknowledges the importance
of e-government as a fundamental part of the modernisation agenda
and are responding positively and energetically to the challenges.
All local authorities (bar one) have local strategies setting
out how they will Implement Electronic Government. Based on local
authorities' own assessments, the average availability of electronic
services was at 29 per cent in July last year, and is expected
to reach 45 per cent by March 2003, 73 per cent by March 2004
and 100 per cent by the end of 2005 in line with the national
The draft national strategy seeks to clarify
a common and ambitious vision of local e-government and promotes
its delivery. It provides for:
A model of the building blocks of
local e-government with which local authorities and other public
services can build and implement their own e-strategies.
A national framework of standards,
details of the infrastructure required and proposals to encourage
partnership working, and capacity building in key skills, which
will help local authorities in implement their local strategies.
A vision of local e-government which
puts customers at the heart of the design and delivery of local
The draft national strategy emphasises that
e-government is about more than just technology and the Internet.
It is about putting citizens at the heart of local government
and harnessing technology to improve our public services for example,
by providing services at times and places most convenient to the
It will necessarily include a variety of access
channels such as call centres, one-stop shops, mobile phones and
Digital TV as well as using the Internet to provide services.
It will require a lot of preparation work by authorities to re-engineer
and integrate their back office systems to facilitate the delivery
of e-enabled services.
As the consultation document sets out in Chapter
6 and as the NAO report has underlined has underlined there is
a need to revisit the Best Value Performance Indicator 157, which
measures the level of councils services that are capable of being
delivered electronically. Although this mirrors the government-wide
target to e-enable all services by 2005 we recognise the need
to develop the indicator to include some measure of take up and
Nevertheless we are not relying purely on this
indicator to judge the progress being made. We will also be using
complementary research and local authorities' own plans. Chapter
10 of the draft National Strategy sets out the research base,
which we will use in short to medium term. For example we are
undertaking research which will develop a outcome measures and
baseline information that will allow a full assessment of the
outcomes and impacts of local e-government in the longer term.
Research undertaken by others such as the Society of Information
Technology Management (SOCITM) and the Improvement and Development
Agency for local government (IDeA) bolster this information base.
We also recognise that we can learn from the
first round of Implementing Electronic Government Statements.
The next round, due later this year will build upon the lessons
learnt and enable us, given the progress which is made on the
ground, to create an even clearer picture of how authorities are
progressing to meet the 2005 target.
The draft National Strategy includes a commitment
to produce an implementation plan for local e-government alongside
the final strategy, and an Annual Report to chart progress nationally
and locally. Following the consultation period, which ends on
28 June, we expect to publish the final strategy in October. As
far as possible, we would be happy to take into account the PAC's
consideration in the final strategy.
I hope that this memorandum and the draft National
Strategy are useful to the Committee in providing some additional
information about our ongoing e-business vision and strategy.
We are grateful to the NAO for their useful recommendations.
Sir Richard Mottram KCB
Department for Transport, Local Government and the