CABINET office minister Francis Maude says today 75 percent of government websites face the axe. He reckons they are more costly than they are worth. But should the idea of slicing back the internet pages be adopted at a local authority level?
Mr Maude could start by asking his special adviser, Laura Trott. Or Councillor Laura Trott, as she is now known since getting elected to Camden Council for the Conservatives in Frognal in May. What does she think of the web choices emanating from the council buildings she now frequents as an elected politician?
Undoubtedly, Camden does a good job with its website. I’ve generally found it clear and accessible. It does what it should, perhaps with only a smudge of lily-gilding. The IT team love to be the first in the country to install something innovative – and why not? That boisterous enthusiasm shouldn’t be discouraged.
The questions, however, for the people who pay and commission techy things at Camden Town Hall might instead be around the interest in spin-off sites. Take LoveCamden.org and its Twitter feed, beautifully designed but still ultimately the webby twin of the much-maligned posters the council hung from lamp-posts ordering people to beat the recession by loving their High Street. No need to revisit that old debate again here: Camden feels it was unfairly criticised for its efforts.
Similarly, the council created a CamdenVotes section on its main site for the recent elections. This was/is nice and clear and surely provided some use to people confused about the different polls which were held on the same day. Good, good. But did Camden need to send somebody to the election night count to tweet the results on Twitter as they came in as well. There was a pride of journalists filing the results from the Haverstock canteen. The results were available pretty sharpishly from scores of different sources (some quicker than others).
So, did the 200 people who subscribed to the CamdenVotes Twitter feed really need a council officer to stay up all night just to provide another way for them to find out that Glenda Jackson had held her place in Parliament? Mr Maude would surely say no.