Press release

Clamp down on Government websites to save millions

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude has today pledged to scrap hundreds of unnecessary and expensive government websites.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude has today pledged to scrap hundreds of unnecessary and expensive government websites and slash the cost of the remaining sites to save millions of pounds.

In autumn 2006 the Government committed to dramatically culling the number of websites. In March 2010 there were still 794 websites; now, the Government has identified 820.

As part of the Government’s efficiency drive, all of the existing 820 government funded websites will be subject to a review looking at cost, usage and whether they could share resources better.  No new websites will be permitted except for those that pass through a stringent exceptions process for special cases, and are cleared by the Efficiency board which is co-chaired by Mr Maude and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

The expectation is the review, which will report by the Spending Review in September, will aim to shut down up to 75% of existing sites and then look at getting the remaining sites to cuts their costs by up to 50% and move onto common infrastructures.

A report published today by the Central Office for Information (COI) found that across government £94 million has been spent on the construction and set up and running costs of just 46 websites and £32 million on staff costs for those sites in 2009-10. The most expensive websites are:

  • uktradeinvest.gov.uk which costs £11.78* per visit; and
  • businesslink.gov.uk which costs £2.15 per visit.

In addition, we have anecdotal evidence of where money has been wasted because of competition between departments.  Examples include:

  • Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Energy Saving Trust (EST) bidding against each other for Google search terms; and
  • Some quango websites competing with central government ones, for example, the Potato Marketing Board’s lovechips.co.uk competing against the Department of Health’s Change4Life campaign on healthy lifestyle.

Making the announcement, Mr Maude, said:

This Government is completely committed to getting the government web back under control.  The days of “vanity” sites are over.  It is not good enough to have websites which do not deliver the high quality services which people expect and deserve. That is why we will take tough action to get rid of those which are not up to the job and do not offer good value for money and introduce strict guidelines for those that remain.

Going forward I will be working with internet entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox, our new Digital Champion, on how we further transform government websites as part of our drive to put key public services online and to increase the number of people who are able to use the Internet.  She will also look at sharing resources and facilities and using low-cost open source products to reduce running costs.

(* This figure is based on visitor figures for the inward investment part of the website only.) 

CAB 104-10

Notes to Editors

  1. The Government has committed to make immediate savings of £6.2 billion. For further details on the Government’s Efficiency and Reform programme, please see www.hm-treasury.gov.uk [external website].
  2. The Efficiency Board is chaired jointly by the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. For further details please see www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk.
  3. The ‘Government on the Internet’ report carried out by the Central Office for Information (COI) looks at 46 central government websites for the financial year 2009-10 and excludes NDPBs. The report lists figures, which have never been collated in this way before, for the cost, quality and usage of central Government websites.  From next year the report will include both central government websites and NDPBs. The report, ‘Government on the Internet’ will be available from 9am in full at coi.gov.uk/websitemetrics2009-10 [external website].
  4. The Public Accounts Committee requested that a standard way or measuring and reporting costs for websites be introduced, which COI delivered a standard method in March 2009.  Departments are reporting their first financial year 2009/10 against these measures.  (Measures can be found at coi.gov.uk/webguidelines/costs [external website].)
  5. For Cabinet Office press office contact details, visit the press office page.

 Please note that this press notice was amended on Wednesday 30 June 2010.

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