The Guido Fawkes rumour is confirmed: the BBC reports that ‘hundreds of government websites are to be shut down “to make access to information easier” for people. Instead government information online will be streamlined through two main sites – Directgov and Business Link.’
The Cabinet Office press release describes just how tough a line they’re now taking: ‘only 26 of the websites examined so far are certain to be retained by Government, while 551 will go. Information of continuing relevance from closed sites will transfer to www.direct.gov.uk and www.businesslink.gov.uk.’ Grr. But if you take the time to read the full report (available in PDF format from here), you’ll see on page 15 that the headline-grabbing figure isn’t as concrete as it might seem:
In the first phase of departmental reviews, 951 websites were considered across 16 central government departments. Decisions have already been taken to close 551 (58 per cent) of these websites; 90 sites have already closed. Decisions have also been taken to continue with 26 websites – although some of their current content will move to Directgov and Business Link – and decisions on the remaining 374 sites will be taken in the next six months. Further discussions will take place over the next few months in order to produce detailed implementation plans, confirm the role of departmental corporate sites, extend the review to executive agencies and nondepartmental public bodies, and encourage further collaboration between departments. This will be completed by June 2007.
So, taking these numbers at face value, more than a third of the 16 departments’ websites remain to be reviewed; and of course, this is only phase one. There’s a long way to go yet.
No argument from me with the principle of consolidation, incidentally. I’m just shocked at the number of new sites which have popped up in the 14 months since ‘Transformational Government’ was first published. This announcement of a cull can’t possibly have come as a surprise to anyone. Can it?