Budget cuts howl through the previously warm and snug corridors of local government like the arctic blast the country succumbed to during the latter part of 2010. Minus 12 degC outside and chilling decisions being made inside.
Despite being the major means of dealing with councils, cuts are being made to web budgets. Lincolnshire, for example, cut budgets for web services before I left in early December and there’s probably more to come.
In my opinion it’s a short sighted view taken by some who are digitally and customer service illiterate. The web has proven to be the most cost effective method of dealing with the public. Moreover it’s the way that an increasing number of customers want to deal with councils. Is it foolish then to curtail web provision’s ability to continue to grow as the main focus of customer service provision? Yes, especially as currently calls made to call centres are falling and web interaction with councils steadily rises .
I don’t suppose Lincolnshire will be the only council slashing web budgets, be that in development or in publishing power. Others will similarly make those chicken-licken style decisions and will leave the public all the poorer for it. That’s sad.
Having said that, just like any other service there must be things the web provides – or that are provided on the web – that are a luxury. Each web manager should take a long look at what is provided on their sites and make cost/value judgements on whether those fripperies should stay.
British LG web sites are thought of as being amongst the best, if not the best, LG web sites in the world. And in some part ”Better Connected”, the yearly review by SOCITM, has been responsible for raising standards. There does come a point though when you’re near the top of the game, where raising the standard ever so marginally – to meet some imagined need of SOCITM’s and thereby fulfill their requirement for Better Connected to exist and to make money – is just too expensive, and cannot, surely, be cost justified.
I would argue, especially in these trying times, enough is enough. Care not what SOCITM, in their desire to make a profit, say about you. It’s just too expensive a price to pay.
- If you are providing good quality, up to date information via a readily navigable and/or easily searchable web site;
- if your ethos is to be open and transparent and your web site demonstrates this;
- if you let your site be driven by your clients by asking them to complain about a bad service or even lack of service (remember you learn nothing from those who compliment you. It’s only the complainers who really drive you forward – read ‘What would Google do’ by Jeff Jarvis);
- if your council, particularly officers, think of the web as the first method of dealing with the customer and provide the services and information accordingly,
- generally if you think first about what the clients want, as opposed to what the council- members and officers – want, and deliver that via your web site, then you will have the basis of an excellent site – no matter what SOCITM may say to the contrary.
SOCITM would argue they have been the ones who have driven up standards. As I’ve said I lean towards agreement. However, having got us up to the top of the tree lets see how they can lead us down to more cost effective branches. If indeed you really need any leading. I would argue you don’t.