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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 16:02 GMT
Government to close 551 websites
Tony Blair launching a website
The Blair government has put many services online
Hundreds of government websites are to be shut down "to make access to information easier" for people.

Of 951 sites, only 26 will definitely stay, 551 will definitely close and hundreds more are expected to follow.

In future government information will be streamlined through two main sites - Directgov and Business Link.

The Cabinet Office called it a natural step as people shifted their interest to use what it called "supersites" such as Directgov and the BBC website.

The annual report on "transformational strategy", published on Wednesday, said 90 websites had already been closed.

SITES BEING AXED
Parents Online
Supporting People Strategies Toolkit
Floor Targets Interactive
Interactive Whiteboards Catalogue
UK Man and Biosphere
Government Decontamination Service
Home Information Pack
Drinking Water Inspectorate
Civil Service Statistics

Cabinet Office minister Pat McFadden said there had been a need to "deal decisively" with the proliferation of government websites.

About 9m a year was expected to be saved over three years by cutting back on "vanity" sites that do not serve a useful purpose.

Some information from the closed sites will be transferred to Directgov, for individuals, and Business Link, or will be put on the remaining sites.

It is intended that there will end up being these two main "supersites", one site for each department and then a very few others such as NHS Direct.

Among those which are being axed are out-of-date sites like Urban Summit 2002 as well as others such as UK Man and Biosphere Programme - a UNESCO project - and the Drinking Water Inspectorate, both of which will now come under the Defra website.

According to Ofcom, when Labour came to power in 1997, only 5% of households had internet access, but that has now risen to 57%.

And the Cabinet Office believes that people prefer to find what they need quickly and easily rather than choosing to surf across huge numbers of sites.


Do you think this is a good idea? Do you have a favourite government website? The following comments reflect a balance of the views received.

About time, it can be a nightmare finding correct information from the government when you are constantly redirected to different sections on different sites simply trying get all of the information. Everything in one place is great.
Ian Shaw, Brighton, UK

At first I was astonished at how many websites the government actually run. Then I stopped and thought about the way the country has been run over the past decade and I wasn't surprised at all!!
Andy Mills, Nottingham

Having fewer sites will mean having fewer website architectures to maintain. That should make it a lot easier to make government websites accessible to people using assistive devices (eg blind people who use the internet). You've previously reported that government is failing disabled web users by having inaccessible website designs. I hope that this will change in 2007.
Sean McManus, Prompt Communications, London, UK

Closing down sites with outdated information is part of the natural evolution of the internet. However I trust the National Archive is taking static copies of these closed sites before they go offline. These sites should be kept for historical reference.
Nathan Friend, Dover GB

The worst website has to be netregs.gov.uk, what does NetRegs mean?
Ricky Martin, Bristol

It's a bit academic how may web sites there are. It's not called the web for nothing; information can be linked from site to site and appear to be quite elsewhere from where it appears. If the government is going to reduce the number of silos with their own web teams then good but if less information is made available to the public then this will not be a good move at all.
Colin Rosenstiel, Cambridge

This is an excellent plan. I have been advocating website rationalisation in the Regional Development Agency for over 2 years, as the multiple cost and the inefficiency of so many below standard and duplicated websites is just so futile. Directgov is a good example of the way ahead, having a website were you can have a single access point to a wide range of focussed information. I have a website strategy review planned which will reconsider the need for a new Regional wide access point for those who require a more localised view. I would be interested to here of other such ideas for rationalisation and closing down of out of date and unproductive websites.
Ken Clark, Birmingham UK

Does this mean the demise of vanity sites like www.number-10.gov.uk perhaps?
Nick MacRae, London

Nowhere on the internet could I find out how much the UK governments spends on the NHS, either in total pounds or as a proportion of the income tax take. They should provide essential info like this. How else can we take political decisions?
David Jefferies, Guildford UK

Excellent news! Then perhaps we can start getting rid of all those non-jobs. 'Anti-Smoking Officer for the Eastern Ports Region' somehow springs to mind. If only the imprudent Gordon Brown could listen up.
John Gaskell, Cambridge, UK

Definitely a good idea Difficult to say favourite govt site One I use most and probably the worst is HMRC
Marcus Phokou, Abingdon

As a web-designer and frequent user of government sites it makes perfect sense. Supersites, if managed correctly can be immensely powerful and easy to use. The BBC site is possibly the worlds most effective, useful and massive website.
Leyton Jay, Crawley, UK

I note, with interest, that one of the sites being axed is Home Information Packs. If you recall the Government reversed its policy regarding the Home Survey which was to be included in HIPs. Now it removes all web traces of the failed HIPs project.
Alistair Kelman, Edgware

Great, but a shame that the Civil Service Statistics site is on the list. This includes, amongst other things, the interesting figures for Whitehall staff numbers during the Blair era - Home Office staff up 34% from 1998 to 2004, Inland Revenue up 45% (before the Customs merger), Defra up 28%. Spreadsheets, allowing interested members of the public to do their own analysis, do not seem to be a feature of the new supersites.
Martin Windle, Swansea

Sounds good and should be good, but it's a great opportunity to bury stuff the government doesn't want published and to centralise editorial control for the spin doctors.
Ben Dallimore, Toberonochy

I wonder if this will last as long as the previous attempts at providing a joint up government website (e.g. Open.gov.uk and Ukonline.gov.uk). I certainly hope this move is accompanied by an overhaul of Direct.gov.uk, which is a confusing and unnavigable mess. If its done right this could be great news. However, if its done badly it will be a disaster.
Ian, Manchester

It is irrelevant how many sites the Government has or doesn't have. To claim to be closing sites is just Political bunkum. The web is a single, interlinked information resource. The issue is to have every site designed the same, same layout, same navigation, and full of do-it-yourself on-line systems (tax national and local, DLVC etc). This is the issue that needs addressing.
Antony Watts, Lefkas Greece

As a web site worker in government I would say this may appear to make sense but I wouldn't trust Whitehall to not end up deleting masses of information as one poster has suggested. Directgov in particular doesn't exactly have the best record and you just have to look overseas to see how badly the UK govt is actually doing. I work in local government and the approach of directgov is - frankly - that of bureaucracy, not of a web site. This distinction is vital and the main reason why government is not getting strong results from 'egov'. far too often, for example, work is done and then not promoted online. no commercial or charity site would ever behave like that. there's little sense of the 'holistic' nature of the web. Rationalisation is all well and good but the reality is that a very large proportion of people find information via Google and government simply isn't taking any account of this. None. Look it up. Anything based on trying to force people a particular way through the web is bound to be less effective.
anonymous, UK

This is no doubt a useful development but I wonder how much was spent on consultants fees to decide this?
Duncan, London

Thank god for that. Navigating government information is a total nightmare. One thing though; will this include overhaul of County and District council websites? These are also cluttered and difficult to navigate.
Tom, Reading, UK

'The worst website has to be netregs.gov.uk, what does NetRegs mean? Ricky Martin, Bristol' There's a clue there. 'Net' = 'On the internet'.'Regs' = 'Regulations'. It's a site explaining environmental regs and compliance.
Adrian Jones, Lydney, Glos

I've just completed my on-line tax return... it was a nightmare. Surely we'll just have ONE BIG mess instead of lots of little ones?
Kerry Murdock, Birmingham

Does that mean the end of the GNN site, please tell me it is!
Oliver Morrison, London

Personally I don't care whether they have one website or a million, my biggest wish is for the sites to either be better indexed by search engines (by making them more accessible to search engines) or develop their own decent search engine for their websites. Finding government information on the current websites is a nightmare, and the government web team's current solution to this? Spend taxpayers money on ads at Google!
Daniel Trimm, Birmingham, United Kingdom

I completely approve of the concept of rationalising Government Information websites (unless the Government simply intends to remove embarrassing websites, as apparently occurred at the time of the "Foot and Mouth Outbreak"). However, my experience of such processes (in other domains) has been extremely poor, and for one simple reason which seems to be occurring here, too - what consultation has taken place with the Users ? (None, to the best of my knowledge.) Hence my Company motto - "Don't Assume - Communicate !" Ergo, we will find that the websites will probably be (a) inadequate and (b) tedious. I would welcome a Government website with a comprehensive search engine, preferably using 'intelligent' agent software, and means shown to source missing data by (dare I say it ?) "human contact".
Peter Hartley, CREADIS, Guildford, UK

Glad to hear the government is catching up with technology. I do hope that no-one believes the jump from 5% to 57% is anything what so ever to do with good government; it's to do with good technology. A few years ago the web community moved towards big "central" sites that acted as portals to information. Hopefully in a few years the government will catch on to the fact that, the best sites rely upon user input too. Well here's hoping :)
Matthew O'Donoghue, London

Good in theory and we have a similar problem here, but a broad brush approach such as this does not always provide for the best information and certainly restricts presentation which is always part of branding and getting image across to consumers. The scary part is what we wont be told and the eventual government control of information, even on what departments will be allowed to put out which should be freely available - the projected saving is miniscule really in the overall plan of things and is probably a reaction to legal concerns over liabilities at the end of the day as to what has been published and what might be used against the government. Tread carefully on this as one would not want the next step to be similar to the Chinese government reaction on net users!
Stephen Sandilands, Western Australia

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SEE ALSO
The doomed government websites
11 Jan 07 |  UK Politics
UK climbs EU e-government league
08 Mar 05 |  UK Politics
Cost of government websites revealed
03 Apr 03 |  Technology
Big changes for government site
01 Mar 04 |  Technology
UK 'lags in e-government'
25 Feb 03 |  Technology

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