What would happen if we switch our website off?

Council websites and their cost have been falling under much scrutiny lately –
for example from the Webthrift campaignwhich has submitted a Freedom of
Information enquiry to every UK local authority to find out how much they spent
on their website. Yet a proper understanding of the cost of the website
requires much more than simply adding up expenditure. What would happen if a
council suddenly turned off all of its web activities? Peter Barton, Head of
Web and Information Governance at Lincolnshire County Council considered just
that and tried to put a cost to all of the consequences. Read his findings
below – and be prepared for a shock.
Published: 3 August 2009
Local government is often queried as to costs of running its services.
Questions about web costs are a hot topic at the moment.
To counterbalance these recent questions of cost** we should consider what a
web team and web site adds to the provision of customer service. And to do
that, perhaps we should consider what would happen to the services and what
would be the cost of replacement if we switched off our web services?
Just what would happen if we did and what might the impact be on the Council’s
services and attendant replacement?
It is difficult to get accurate figures to prove a negative but the web team at
Lincolnshire County Council have provided these approximate figures.***
N.B. even without all of the service replacements having a cost applied to
them, those which have had a cost put to them equate to some £1.25 million a
year in extra costs to Lincolnshire County Council if the web service were to
be removed.
So discussions of cost per user, as in a recent Freedom of Information Request
to many councils, missed the point. It’s not just about cost per user. It’s
about value to the user and savings to the council.
If we turned off our web services…
177,000 visitors per month (May 2009 figures) to our web site would find no web
site.
If only 10% of these visitors were to contact us by phone – say 17,000 – then
we would incur an extra cost of approx £51,000 per month.* Based on Socitm’s
costs of phone contact
    *
      They would not be able to access the 1.2 million pages per month (May
2009 figures) they currently do.
      Resulting in reduction in service quality and unidentifiable extra cost.
    *
      No information on adult and children’s social care and education, getting
married, libraries, transport, travel and roads, waste and re-cycling,
adoption, fostering, careers, public sector jobs, Councillors and democracy,
local attractions, museums, economic regeneration, trading standards and much,
much more.
      Resulting in reduction in service quality and added, unidentifiable cost.
    *
      We would not update, amend, add or in some other way change the over 8000
pages we do on a monthly basis.(May 2009 figures).
      Resulting in reduction in service quality and added, unidentifiable cost.
    *
      We would not be able to provide access to pdf downloads currently running
at some 44,000 per month (May 2009 figures).
      Imagine if we had to send only a small part (say around 10%) of that
number by post at around £3.00 – £5.00 each in postage and staff time. We would
incur £12,000 to £15,000 per month extra cost. And a reduction in service
quality.
    *
      No interaction via on-line web forms.
      Reduction in service quality and added, unidentifiable cost.
    *
      No booking library books on line. – Around 4844 a month books are booked
on line ( May 2009 figures) This figure is about a third of the volume of all
bookings.
      If this service were not available we would incur an extra cost of around
£15,000 to £30,000 per month and a reduction in service quality due to
increased phone or face to face activity.
    *
      No booking of school places on line. About 35% (over 5000 were booked
online this year 2009). At 27p per interaction as opposed to £6.56 per
interaction for face to face or £3.22 for a phone call*
      In removing this service we would incur an extra cost of some £15,000 to
£30,000 for the year and a reduction in service quality.
    *
      No applying on line for jobs ( this is the largest single used area of
most local government sites).
      In June 2009 473 job applications were made on line. At an average cost
of applying by paper and post, which must be running at approximately £10.00
per application. This would mean an extra cost of around £5,000 per month and a
reduction in service quality if this service were to be removed.
    *
      No more applying for Blue badge on line. 1
      26 of these forms were completed on line in May 09 (27p per interaction
as opposed to £6.56 per interaction*) This would mean an extra cost of around
£600 per month and a reduction in service quality if this service were to be
removed.
    *
      No access to live council meeting webcasts.
      Reducing client involvement in the democratic process, damaging our
reputation and showing a reduction in service quality if it were to be removed.
    *
      No more online version of Inside Lincolnshire ( A County wide magazine).
      Showing a reduction in service quality if it were to be removed and
added, unidentifiable, cost.
    *
      No more meeting national government agendas such as Positive Activities
and Family Services Directory.
      Damaging our reputation and showing a reduction in service quality if it
were to be removed. Replacement cost not known.
    *
      No up to date easily accessible version of the Health and Safety and
Employment manuals. Requiring a re-instatement of the paper based (expensive to
update) system. Replacement cost not known.
    *
      No source of information for the Customer Service Centre.
      Requiring a re-instatement of a paper based (expensive to update) system.
Replacement cost not known.
    *
      No “Childrens handbook” on line.
      Requiring a re-instatement of the paper based (expensive to update and
difficult to control) system. Replacement cost not known. And consider damage
to reputation and possible legal costs.
About 4500 of our staff would have no access to work based web tools and
information through GEORGE (the County Council’s Intranet) such as:
    *
      Induction information
    *
      Job descriptions
    *
      Learning and development tools
    *
      Fire and Rescue Training tools
    *
      Expenses Claims
    *
      Sickness reporting
Replacement cost not known …Damaging our reputation and showing a reduction in
service quality and efficiency if these were to be removed.
The specialist web services/sites for the likes of the following would not be
available.
    *
      Children C4YP
    *
      Food and Farming
    *
      Economic Regeneration
    *
      Password protected practitioner and partner areas
    *
      Cost effective sites for shared services e.g. procurement, legal
    *
      Members micro site
    *
      Planning portal
    *
      SMS messaging of school closures.
Replacement cost not known …Damaging our reputation and showing a reduction in
service quality and efficiency if these were to be removed.

We collect information from clubs, societies and organisations which is then
made available to clients through our web site and other partner sites. That
would end.
Replacement cost not known …Damaging our reputation and showing a reduction in
service quality and efficiency if these were to be removed.
The diary of Lincolnshire events would not be available to both internal and
external clients. Replacement cost not known …Damaging our reputation and
showing a reduction in service quality and efficiency if these were to be
removed.
We currently provide, and host on our servers, over 100 parish and 120
community web sites. These would die because we would not do the initial setup
of each and the training and support provision would go.
Replacement cost not known …Damaging our reputation and showing a reduction in
service quality and efficiency if these were to be removed.
North Kesteven District Council’s and West Lindsey District Council’s web sites
would die as they share our web software, we provide assistance and we also
host the sites on our servers. Replacement cost not known …Damaging our
reputation, our partner relationships and showing a reduction in service
quality and efficiency if these were to be removed.
The “My Lincolnshire” function, which is a system where a range of information
is delivered according to your specific area via postcode, would cease. “My
Lincolnshire” is shared with, and used by, all district councils within the
County save one.
Replacement cost not known …Damaging our reputation and showing a reduction in
service quality and efficiency if these were to be removed.
The Council would not be able to provide statutorily required information via
our web site i.e. our publication scheme, required under the FOI act from the
Information Commissioners Office amongst others so required.
Replacement cost not known …Damaging our reputation and showing a reduction in
service quality and efficiency if these were to be removed.
We would be unable to provide the immediacy of essential information such as
was delivered on election night and during any future possible emergency – say
swine flu.
Replacement cost not known…Damaging our reputation and showing a reduction in
service quality and efficiency if these were to be removed.
Comms would not be able to deliver messages via the web site.
Replacement cost not known …Damaging our reputation and showing a reduction in
service quality and efficiency if these were to be removed.
There would be no making of savings across the Council by shifting the way
people make contact with us (Channel shifting) to the web – a cheaper
alternative to face to face and telephone. Replacement cost not known.
And of course not forgetting the expectations of our public – with 2 out of 3
houses in the UK having broadband (recently quoted figure on BBC news) there is
a growing expectation of web provided information amongst our public. This is
itself a driver spurring us on towards ever more usage of our web sites and the
provision of ever more interaction and functionality.
To a growing number, web information is becoming as much a part of modern life
as is power and water.
Cost of replacing this… immeasurable. Impact on our reputation… huge.
* The costs of customer contact are…
    *
      Face to face £6.56.
    *
      Phone £3.22
    *
      Web 27p.
      (These figures provided by Socitm 2008.)
N.B. The SOCITM costs have been used to calculate some of the figures above by
substituting another channel in place of the web channel .
** Even though Lincolnshire County Council’s web site costs, running at an
average of per 9p per visitor over the last 5 years, is considered low compared
to the SOCITM average of 27p
*** These figures are indicative and should not be deemed to be entirely
accurate. While the current volumes of use are accurate the assumptions made
about what numbers we would have to service if the web was turned off are an
educated guess. Where such a guess has been made for purpose of this exercise
we have erred on the low side.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “What would happen if we switch our website off?

  1. Gosh a thoughtful article demonstrating how dependant we have become on web technology in such a relatively short space of time.
    How did we ever cope without it?
    And yet has this technology improved local democracy and participation?
    Surely this is one of the areas of huge potential for web technology platforms over the next 10 -15 years.

  2. So far technology, the web in particular, has been responsible for providing access to the information we hold and services we deliver in Martinin time – you know, any place, any time anywhere.

    The challenge of improved participation is not a technological one. It’s more a political issue.

    Yesterday there was much talk here in the UK of a council which had banned independant bloggers from blogging or tweeting from council meetings. It called upon an act of parliament to justify its stance.
    It did not intend to block journalists, Just the hyperlocal bloggers etc were excluded.

    What price participation in democracy with that sort of mentality.

    You may be intersted in stuff held here…

    http://uklgweb.blogspot.com/

    It’s a blog I run (just started) for LG Web managers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s