The purpose of this report is to:
Summarise the current situation with respect to Waverley Borough Council’s website;
Propose the redesign and relaunch of the Council’s website;
Seek approval to purchase a Website Content Management system (WCMS); and
Request a supplementary estimate for the recruitment of a Website Manager.
The redesign and relaunch of the Council’s website will improve online service delivery thereby increasing the volume of transactions undertaken electronically and reducing the consumption of paper and the need to travel to the Council’s offices.
Social / Community Issues
There are no direct social / community implications of redesigning and relaunching the Council’s website, although an updated website will offer improved information/facilities for the community.
The Council’s website is the primary channel for electronic service delivery and a key component of the Government’s “Transformational Government” strategy for the delivery of public services in the 21st century.
Resource and Legal Implications
The resource implications of the purchase of a Website Content Management System and recruitment of a Website Manager are given in detail below.
1. A provision of £75,000 has been included in the 2007/08 IEG Capital Programme for the purchase of a Website Content Management System (WCMS) and the associated website design services.
2. The reasons for implementing a WCMS are set out in detail at para.6 but can be summarised as follows:
· Central management of the content of the Council’s website;
4. At present the Council’s in-house skills with respect to its website are primarily technical. The current staff resource required to support the website is described in the Exempt Annexe. This resource is wholly within the IT Section and although it has significant skills they are in the areas of software development and support not website management, editorship and design. It will therefore be necessary to recruit somebody with the necessary experience and expertise in these areas.
5. It is worth noting that there is a significantly higher than average level of internet and e-mail usage within the population of Waverley and that access to the Council via its website is becoming an increasingly important channel of communication. A recent survey (see annexe 1) showed that 34% of Waverley’s residents had used the Council’s website within the previous year and that e-mails and online forms were second only to the telephone as residents’ preferred method of contacting the Council (27% compared to 40%).
6. WBC’s website began life about ten years ago. Created in-house it was initially a simple static site built using standard Microsoft tools and hosted by a local Internet Service Provider.
7. In 2002 the website was overhauled to meet the changing expectations of the public and comply with central Government initiatives, in particular categorisation of content, standard methods of website navigation and other e-Government requirements. At this point the website began to take on its current look and feel. However it should be noted that WBC has never used the services of any professional designers to shape the appearance of its website.
8. It is difficult to state the precise “size” of WBC’s website as it is comprised of several components but the current statistics for the “static” part of the website (i.e. WBC’s website excluding those pages delivered by Lotus Notes, documents delivered by the Comino image processing system, web-facing applications such as online payments etc.) are as follows:
· 1,250 pages;
· 1,100 images;
· 400 PDFs (documents held in Adobe Acrobat format); and
· 140 Word & Excel documents.
9. The current level of visitor activity on these pages is:
· 7,500 page views per day;
· 2,500 visitors per day
· 400 uses of search per day.
10. Although the Council’s website received several accolades in the first few years of the century and was regularly highly placed in the Society of Information Managers’ (SOCITM’s) league of District Council websites it has recently been “slipping down the charts” as other Council websites have overtaken it. Waverley’s website is assessed as a “content plus” site whereas more and more Councils’ sites are being assessed as “transactional” based on a combination of criteria including ease of navigation, accessibility and usability of online forms and other interactive transactions.
11. SOCITM also make the point in their most recent annual snapshot of Local Authority websites, “Better Connected 2007”, that “expectations about site standards are rising all the time”.
12. Within the past twelve months the following surveys have been undertaken with respect to WBCs website:
· Evaluation of Waverley Borough Council’s Website (residents survey); and
· Website - Staff Survey.
13. The findings of these surveys are summarised at Annexe 1.
14. The findings demonstrate that the website is an increasingly significant means of communicating with and delivering services to the residents of Waverley and customers of the Council. They also demonstrate that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed if the full potential of the website is to be realised.
15. Nearly all of the criticisms made of the website in the surveys are either managerial, editorial or design issues, i.e. not technical ones. These findings endorse the need for the Council to acquire the necessary skills to improve its website.
16. Most Local Authorities, including Waverley’s neighbouring Surrey Authorities, have at least one member of staff charged with the responsibility of promoting, managing and developing the Council’s website. These officers are usually also responsible for the Council’s Intranet and any Extranets (e.g. the Members’ Extranet).
17. At present, at Waverley, staff within IT section are responsible for the technical development and support of the website but nobody has overall responsibility for the management, editorial control and design of the content of the website.
18. A draft job description of a Website Manager is given at Annexe 2 to this report. This demonstrates the range of responsibilities of the post and the variety of skills required of the post holder.
Website Content Management System (WCMS)
19. In order for somebody to be able to fulfil the role of a website manager they will need to have the software tools required to deliver corporate management and editorial control of the content of the website.
20. A WCMS not only provides a Website Manager with the necessary software tools to undertake their responsibilities, it also enables service managers to take ownership of the content of their pages on the website and assume responsibility for the quality and of the information published about their services.
21. An overview of the functional requirements of a WCMS is given at Annexe 3.
22. Your officer have drafted a detailed specification of requirements of a WCMS and propose going out to tender to a restricted list of suppliers with a proven track record for designing websites and providing web content management systems to Local Government.
23. The implementation of a WCMS would be a considerable undertaking as it would require the training of approximately 50 officers and the migration of a large volume of information from the existing to the new website plus the associated editing, reformatting and indexing of content. It is therefore desirable that a Website Manager be in post to manage the project and apply their expertise in the development of the Council’s new website.
24. A provision of £75,000 has been included in the 2007/08 IEG Capital Programme for the purchase of a Website Content Management System (WCMS) and the associated website design services.
25. Details relating to the revenue budget refer to current staffing arrangements and are included in the Exempt Annexe.
26. The services of the Website Manager will be required as soon as possible in order to lead on the project to redesign the website and implement the WCMS.
27. This report therefore seeks a supplementary estimate of £18,000 in the current financial year and a consequent net growth commitment of £25,000 in the 2008/09 Revenue budget. Officers, however, will continue to look for offsetting savings.
28. Everybody’s expectations of the range and quality of services provided by the Internet are increasing, including those of Waverley’s residents, customers, staff and members. In the private sector websites have become a primary channel for promotion, publicity, communication, information and service delivery. Central Government is requiring Local Government to follow this lead.
29. Although Waverley’s website has received many accolades in the past it is now falling behind due to the lack of investment in terms of both staff resources and software tools.
30. The Council is also failing to take full advantage of the website’s potential to increase the efficiency of service delivery. The unit costs of filling a form, making a payment, inspecting a planning application etc. online are significantly cheaper than processing those transactions via other channels (face-to-face, over the phone and via the post).
31. A Website Manager would be responsible for raising the profile of the website amongst Waverley’s residents and customers and improving the range and quality of services available on its website, thereby delivering efficiencies for the Council and improving services to the public.
It is recommended that the Executive:
1. recommends to the Council that the post of Website Manager be created and a supplementary revenue estimate of £18,000 be agreed in 2007/08 with net full year cost of £25,000 to be included in the 2008/09 revenue budget; and
2. authorises the procurement of a Website Content Management System from the provision of £75,000 in the 2007/08 IEG Capital Programme.
Name: Lawrence Heath Telephone: 01483 523084