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Last Updated:  Thursday, 3 April, 2003, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Cost of government websites revealed
The amount of money spent on UK Government websites varies widely with some ministries unable to put a figure on their spending.

Houses of Parliament
Government websites vary widely in their web spending
The costs have emerged in response to parliamentary questions tabled by Conservative MP John Bercow.

According to a report in the newsletter eGov Monitor, the most expensive website belongs to the Department for Education and Skills, which spent 1,747,000 during the last year.

By contrast, the Ministry of Defence has been positively parsimonious, with just 124,000 - including expenditure on hardware and support costs - going on its site last year.

The Department of Health declared its website cost 722,560 during 2003-03.

Too many websites

Hosting and maintenance charges had more than doubled on the previous year to a total of 165,000, it said.

This was due to the Office of Government Commerce shutting down its hosting facility, forcing the department to use a private sector provider.

It is obviously confusing to have over 3,000 government sites
Spokesman for the Office of the e-Envoy
Despite being at the vanguard of technology developments in the UK, the Department of Trade and Industry was unable to put a figure on its e-spending.

There was no separation between on-going IT costs and that of the website, the Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt told Mr Bercow.

Around 3,000 websites in the UK have the ".gov.uk" address, a number that e-Envoy Andrew Pinder has publicly admitted is too many.

The government is planning to reduce the number by clustering sites around topics, such as health and motoring.

"Cost is a consideration in this but the main consideration is ease of use for citizens," said a spokesman for the Office of the e-Envoy, the government department charged with getting the UK online.

"It is obviously confusing to have over 3,000 government sites," he added.

The government is also looking at streamlining website spending, which currently comes out of various departmental budgets.

"It is one area that we are looking at. We could bring cost savings to bear, for example, by consolidating hosting arrangements," the e-Envoy spokesman said.

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