Revealed: facts behind Government £94m web spend

Figures published today on the cost and management of Government web sites show startling disparities between the value for money offered by different sites, with some costing taxpayers as much as £11.78 for every visitor they receive.

The report, Reporting on progress: Central government websites 2009/10, publishes details of the development costs and site usage statistics for central government web sites. It comes in response to recommendations by the Public Accounts Committe that followed an earlier investigation of government IT strategy by the National Audit Office, which revealed that more than a quarter of government departments had no idea how much their web sites cost.

Even before the new coalition promised to slash central government IT spending, New Labour had substantially trimmed back its web presence in reponse to the PAC's recommendations.

Of the 1,795 web sites identified in the earlier National Audit Office report, 1,001 had been shut by March this year, with a further 422 marked for the axe. Only 15 new web sites were created in 2009-10. But even after the cuts, question marks remain about Government web development, which last year cost £94 million. The merger of Government agency UK Trade & Investment's two existing sites alone cost taxpayers £4 million – and statistics provided in the report show it attracted an average of 28,085 unique users a month – that's a cost of £11.78 per visitor.

Elsewhere, the report reveals damningly low levels of user satisfaction from major ministries. Just 1% of visitors to the
Department of Transport site reported that they found it easy to use, and 40 per cent of visitors to the Department of Work and Pensions web site said they had failed to get any of the information they needed.

The full report is available from the Central Office of Information here.