E-petitions: a collaborative system - Procedure Committee Contents


4  Costs

71. The costs of the system can be broadly divided between the costs of setting up and running the technical infrastructure, on the one hand, and of providing the staff to support the Petitions Committee, moderate e-petitions, and support petitioners, on the other.

Technical infrastructure

72. The cost of the technical infrastructure can be further divided between the initial development costs to establish the new system, and the ongoing running costs. The best estimate we have seen so far of the one-off cost of establishing the new system—that is, redesigning and rebranding the existing Government e-petition system so that it reflects the fact that it is now jointly owned by the House and Government, and making the changes and improvements to the site necessary to implement the system which we have recommended above—is £188,000. The estimate of the ongoing annual cost of running the system is £115,000.

73. These costs would be shared between the House and the Government. Discussions about the most appropriate split are ongoing, but our view is that a 50:50 division of these costs would be an appropriate starting-point.

74. There could also be an additional cost of up to £39k to enable data from the site to be made available through data.parliament.uk. This cost would be borne by the House but the Finance and Services Committee would have to make a decision on whether it was appropriate to do so.

Staff

75. As will be apparent from the explanation we have given above of the role we envisage for Petitions Committee staff, the size—and cost—of staffing the system we envisage is potentially unlimited. The extent of engagement with petitioners and prospective petitioners will depend on the resources available to the Committee: the more staff it has, the better it will be able to serve the public and respond to the petitions which are submitted. The extent of what the Committee's staff can achieve will also be affected by the number of petitions which are received and the burden of moderating them, which is uncertain. For the purposes of this report, we think it sensible to focus on the minimum which we judge would be necessary from the outset to support the system we have proposed.

76. We think that the minimum staffing which would be necessary to support the Petitions Committee and the e-petition system which we recommend is a team of four full-time equivalent people. A team of that size at appropriate levels of seniority would cost around £200,000 a year. That cost, since these will be House staff, would be borne entirely by the House.

Memorandum from the Accounting Officer

77. These are at present only indicative estimated costs. When, as will need to be the case early in 2015 if the system is to be established from the start of the new Parliament, a motion is considered by the House approving the scheme we propose, the memorandum from the Accounting Officer required under Standing Order No. 22C might be expected to provide a firmer idea of the likely cost.


 
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Prepared 4 December 2014