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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/govuk-proposition/govuk-proposition
The GOV.UK proposition is for people in government organisations who publish information or services on GOV.UK for the public to use. It helps publishers understand what goes on GOV.UK, what does not, and how and when to request an exemption.
Who and what GOV.UK is for
GOV.UK is built to meet the needs of UK citizens, residents and businesses. It also helps people from other countries looking to visit, live or do business in the UK, and anyone looking for information about the work of the UK government.
It’s for services, information and guidance that only government can provide, and makes interacting with government as easy as possible. It’s designed so that users do not need to understand the complex structures of government to access information and services.
GOV.UK is the trusted source of government information. It needs to remain impartial so that people trust the content they find. It’s a brand that is increasingly recognised across many digital channels. This means users can confidently access information where they need it, not just by visiting GOV.UK.
It’s constantly being improved to meet user needs and provide better online interactions. For example, we’re developing ways users can personalise their experience. Read the GOV.UK roadmap to find out more about what we’re working on.
GOV.UK is made up of the following domains:
- www.gov.uk - the publishing platform for government
- service.gov.uk - for government services (for example, check the MOT status of a vehicle, buy a rod fishing licence)
- campaign.gov.uk - for government campaigns
- api.gov.uk - for government APIs
- blog.gov.uk - for government blogs
- data.gov.uk - for publishing government data sets
- independent.gov.uk - for independent inquiries set up by the government
What goes on GOV.UK
Content and products that are built, maintained or owned by government should go on GOV.UK, and must meet an evidenced user need.
It can go on GOV.UK if it does not duplicate content or services that:
- already exist on GOV.UK
- exist on another website outside GOV.UK where a non-governmental organisation is better placed to meet the user need - you should link to the external website instead
You must work with other departments to meet user needs when a user journey includes content managed by multiple government organisations. For priority or complex user journeys, the GOV.UK content design team at the Government Digital Service (GDS) will work with departments to help coordinate effective user journeys.
Your content must also meet one of the following criteria:
1. Government services
It’s something that can only be done with government, for example:
- renewing vehicle tax
- applying for a passport
- booking a prison visit
- registering to vote
- applying for settled status
Or it provides official information, for example:
- current risks when travelling to another country
- whether a small business needs to register for VAT
- pension options when planning for retirement
2. Sector specific guidance
It’s specific guidance that aligns with a government policy intent linked to user needs, for example:
- guidance for industry on meeting carbon reduction targets
- guidance on smart meters
- guidance on recycling hazardous waste
3. Policy and involving people
It helps government to be transparent, engage with people, explain policies clearly and fulfil legal obligations to the public, for example:
- information about government spending and how departments are structured and work
- explaining policies and how they are being implemented (such as the online harms white paper)
- getting people’s feedback, for example through consultations (such as the new deal for social housing green paper)
- blogs on the GOV.UK blog platform explaining openly what government does
- information about tax rates in past years, helping tax advisers give their clients accurate guidance
4. Responding to major events
It shows what government is doing about issues and incidents that have a direct impact on people’s lives or have significant public interest, for example:
- government response to the 2019 floods
- announcements relating to the UK leaving the EU
5. Helping users follow the law
It helps people and businesses meet their legal obligations, for example:
- filing company accounts and tax returns
- consulting with employees on workplace issues
- explaining the import duty payable on certain items
- completing a Self Assessment tax return
6. Support schemes
It helps people find and access government-funded support schemes, for example:
- financial help with starting a business
- rent subsidies for university students
- eligibility for affordable home ownership schemes
7. Business opportunities
It’s a service or information helping to create or promote business opportunities, for example:
- making exporters aware of relevant trade opportunities
- promoting funding for businesses in the UK and other countries
8. Campaign activity and raising awareness
GOV.UK supports campaign and awareness-raising activity through the GOV.UK campaign platform. GOV.UK provides design templates for the platform.
In the case of major national emergencies or events, such as Brexit and coronavirus (COVID-19), it also supports limited campaign activity directly published on the GOV.UK site. This must not, however, compete with or duplicate existing guidance content.
To discuss campaign activity at this level, contact the GOV.UK Policy and Strategy team at email@example.com.
All campaigns must be signed off by the Government Communications Service (GCS).
What does not go on GOV.UK
While GOV.UK meets most needs for government publishers, some things do not go on GOV.UK:
1. Organisations independent from government
Content and services supplied by organisations that are separate or function independently from government, including:
- National Health Service (NHS)
- emergency services
- judiciary (courts, tribunals and judges)
- armed forces
- academic institutions with ac.uk domains
- organisations and companies, like mutuals, that are not publicly owned
- sites and services that publish content by non-government third parties (for example, support forums and community event notifications)
There may be instances where independence from GOV.UK is the best way to serve user needs, for example where association with central government may stop users engaging with content. If this applies, email the GOV.UK Policy and Strategy team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Advertising and other activities for commercial purposes
Content, advertising or services which give a commercial advantage to a company or organisation.
3. General advice
General advice content for people, businesses and specialists, unless it both:
- has a clear user need
- offers guidance or a recommendation relating to a specific policy area (for example, travel advice)
4. Party political content
Content that’s expressly focused on promoting the interests, activities or views of a political party.
5. Intranet or internal work management tools
Intranet or internal work management tools that are only for civil or crown servants.
6. Devolved administrations
Content that’s only relevant to users in devolved parts of the UK should go on the website of the devolved administration. There should be accurate signposting from the relevant pages on GOV.UK to content on devolved administration websites.
The only exception is content relating to a policy area that’s devolved, which is part of wider guidance that applies to all nations. This can go on GOV.UK.
7. User needs cannot be met
Where there’s evidence that the functionality required to meet user needs for a website cannot be met through GOV.UK’s existing public-facing domains (for example, sites where users publish content, such as HMRC’s tax forum).
You must not create any new government website or public-facing domain without an exemption or campaign approval from GDS. This applies to both .gov.uk and non-government domains (like org.uk, co.uk or .com).
There is separate guidance on:
The criteria for granting an exemption may change as the proposition evolves. Exemptions can be revoked. If this happens, you may have to work with GDS to migrate content to GOV.UK.
How to request an exemption
Complete the exemption form (ODT, 14KB) to request an exemption from GOV.UK. You’ll need to include:
- why the user need cannot be met on GOV.UK, with supporting evidence
- your proposed domain name
- signed confirmation that your Head of Digital has given their approval
Email your completed form to email@example.com with the subject line ‘Exemption request’.
After you send an exemption request
You may have to provide further information before a decision is made on your request.
Do not begin procurement of an external website until you get confirmation that your request has been approved.
GDS will let you know the decision within 28 days of your request.
If you get an exemption, you’ll need to check if you need spend approval.
If you do not have an exemption
You’ll need to work with GDS to shut down your website and migrate appropriate content to GOV.UK if it either:
- does not have exemption approval
- no longer qualifies for an exemption
The steps to close your website are:
Proposition audit - work with the GOV.UK Policy and Strategy team to identify whether any of the content from your site should be on GOV.UK.
Content audit - work with the GOV.UK content design team at GDS to understand where content should go on GOV.UK, and whether it duplicates existing content on the site.
Agree a date for website closure with GDS, based on the outputs from the 2 audits.
Migrate content to GOV.UK - work with the GDS content design team to migrate relevant content to GOV.UK, and ensure that website redirects to GOV.UK are set up for the day of website closure.
You must make sure the National Archives holds a copy of the website before it closes.
Read the guidance on how to move content to GOV.UK before you start.
If you need help deciding if something should be published on GOV.UK, ask the GOV.UK content design team at GDS.
If you have questions about the proposition or requesting an exemption, email the GOV.UK Policy and Strategy team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read more about planning, managing and publishing content on GOV.UK.
*[APIs]; application programming interfaces