Local council websites barely improved during 2009, reveals a report.
Many sites got harder to use and saw visitor dissatisfaction increase, found the annual review by the Society of IT Managers (Socitm).
Although the numbers of sites rated excellent did increase, this was offset by others that fell behind.
The report warns that the pressure on websites is likely to grow as budget cuts bite and web-based activism and journalism take off.
Socitm, which represents IT managers in councils, rated websites on many different criteria including whether citizens could find answers to their questions, if the site was up to date, if it had a consistent style that aided navigation and how easy it was to search.
Of the 433 sites reviewed, 3% got top marks of four stars, 24% got three, 46% got two and 27% won only one star.
Overall, the survey found that the number of satisfied visitors to council websites dropped by 18% during 2009.
"It is really disappointing that the performance of this lowest cost service delivery channel seems to have stagnated over the last year," said Martin Greenwood, author of the report.
This should not be taken as a criticism of web managers, he said.
"Responsibility lies with councils' top management, many of whom still do not recognise the key role of the website in reducing corporate costs through the efficient management of customer enquiries," said Mr Greenwood.
The importance of the least-cost web channel was likely to grow, he said, as budget cuts are made and citizens turn with increasing frequency to a website for guidance and information.
Even before big cuts were made, noted the report, visitor numbers to local council sites were up 21.7% in the last 12 months.
Few sites, found the survey, were also prepared for the growth of hyperlocal news services run by citizens or greater involvement of locals in council politics and campaigns.
Some, it found, were not even doing the basics such as referring callers to the website when they ring a council out-of-hours.