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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 March 2006, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
5m plan to push council websites
Computer user
Half of all people want to use online council services, research suggests
The government is launching a 5m campaign to encourage more people to use council websites.

Accessing services such as planning, licensing and applying for school places online will mean savings of up to 1.1bn, it says.

Local government minister Jim Fitzpatrick said: "The facilities are there; people just need to be made more aware of them."

Councils in England have spent more than 600m putting services online.

13 million users

All will be available on the internet soon, the government says.

Finding a lost dog
Booking a sunbed
Translating Geordie into English
Checking a restaurant's hygiene record
Sharing book reviews
Live traffic report webcam
Watching civil weddings

Some of the more unusual recent developments include showing civil weddings via a webcam and allowing children to "search for ghosts" in supposedly haunted buildings owned by local authorities.

At the moment, about 13 million people a month use council sites.

During 2005/6 there were 2.7 million bills paid online and 24,000 planning applications made.

Mr Fitzpatrick told the BBC News website: "England is the best-connected country in the world for council services.

Jim Fitzpatrick
We need to let people know what is available out there
Jim Fitzpatrick, minister

"We already have 12% to 15% of people using the services but about 50% of people we asked said they would like to do so.

"We need to let them know what is available out there, so they can do so."

The government estimates putting services online could save 1.1bn between 2004 and 2008, the equivalent to 1 of every 20 raised from council tax.

The awareness campaign, funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, will run online, on radio and in the press.

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