Switching Off A Council Website

Saturday, August 15, 2009 7:20 | Filed in Public Sector, Web

There’s an interesting post by Peter Barton of Lincolnshire County Council over at Public Sector Forums. If you’re in the public sector and you aren’t already a member, you might want to take the opportunity to wander over and register so that you can read up on the full details.

If you’re not prepared to register, or you’re not in the public sector, then you’ll just have to settle for my brief summary of it…

Basically, Peter set about determining what the cost would be if the Council simply switched off all of its web-related activities — in other words to actually to work out what value the internet channel offers to the Council.

If only 10% of site visitors, upon finding no web presence, were forced to contact the council directly via the telephone to resolve their query, this alone would cost £51,000 per month in officer time. If only 10% of the PDF files downloaded currently were required, there would be a further £12,000 cost in staff time/postage. If all library books booked online were booked via another channel, you’re again looking at a further £12,000 in staff time. Parents wishing to reserve school places online: that’s another £1200 or so per month averaged over a year; extra paper-based job applications a further £5000 per month and £600 per month in terms of blue badge renewals.

He also covers in more detail things like reduction in service quality (and quantity of services provided) as well as reputational damage but these are more difficult to quantify in terms of price, so I’ve taken the opportunity to ignore them completely at this point…

…because the absolute minimum not having an online channel would cost the council financially (not even considering problems if they fail to provide mandatory service provision) comes out — by my reckoning — at something like £81,800 per month. And that’s with an assumption that only 10% of online contacts would require a phone contact to resolve if there was no online presence. If this figure was in the region of 40%, you’d be looking at around a quarter of a million per month.

So the next time someone seems to be complaining about a council ‘wasting’ money on the web, poke them in the eye with a sharp stick you can unleash some of this information on them. Those web monkeys who’ve spent time working for the council — whether developing these necessary applications, sorting out system integrations, or just writing content — this is the money you’re saving the council. It’s about time web and development teams got the right amount of credit for the work they do (and the importance of it).

After all, it isn’t just about asking if you’ve tried turning it off and on again…

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1 Comment to Switching Off A Council Website

  1. Andy says:

    August 15th, 2009 at 9:07 am

    As a former council web monkey I totally agree with your final comments. I always thought that council web teams were seen as the poor relations in the industry, such is the reputation of local government as being slow and lacking in innovation.

    The truth is council web teams *do* innovate, and they could teach other webbies a thing or two about usability and accessibility, since the compliance requirements placed on them are far more strict than in commercial web development.

    I think I’m right in thinking that Lincolnshire were at the centre of a hoo-hah last year about the use of advertising on their site. Would be interested in how that’s panning out for them now – certainly can’t see any ads on their site this morning.

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