Local authorities should look at funding e-government projects from their mainstream budgets and use savings made on earlier IT projects, according to a government strategy document.
The [email protected]: towards a national strategy for local e-government report was developed by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) and the Local Government Association.
Councils have been awarded £350m out of the £1bn central government allocation to meet the target of putting services online by 2005, and the document lays out a framework and 'building blocks' for councils to work towards.
To date, the 388 local authorities in England and Wales have each been given a flat £200,000 (totalling some £77.6m) to develop projects outlined in the Implementing Electronic Government (IEG) statements submitted last year. Another £25m has gone to 25 Pathfinder councils to implement cutting-edge schemes.
From the IEG statements, the government estimates that £2.5bn of investment is required for councils to meet the 2005 targets. Although no commitment to extra funding has been given, the 2002 spending review will "consider the scope of resource required for local e-government".
But the strategy document also says that councils must find other ways of funding the schemes.
"E-government is not an additional responsibility or a new set of services, but a fundamental overhaul of the way mainstream services are delivered. It is therefore appropriate that the costs are met (at least in part) by mainstream service budgets," said the report.
Authorities should exploit central government and Pathfinder projects to avoid duplication, and use savings provided by earlier investments, it added.
Local government IT user body the Society of IT Managers (Socitm) welcomed the report but said that it failed to provide authorities with a clear way forward.
"It is an excellent stock take but it is particularly disappointing that it is very thin on leadership and does not lay out at all clearly what the DTLR is going to do to help deliver this agenda," said Jim Haslem, incoming president at Socitm.
"There are no mechanisms for authorities to engage and disseminate knowledge, but we are pleased that the DTLR has taken up the challenge."
The strategy is now subject to consultation until 28 June.
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