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Councils waste millions with poor online services

Councils could save up to £19m per year by improving online information about waste facilities, according to a report published this week.

Public sector IT professional membership body Socitm, also found that only a third of council’s gave adequate online information to householders about a typical recycling or waste service, such as disposing of a bed.

Around 16% of internet enquiries about waste and recycling failed to provide the required information, Socitm said. Although this was a relatively good performance compared to other council services, such failed enquiries were likely to result in phone calls or face to face enquires which are much more expensive to the council.

A face-to-face enquiry to a council costs an average of £8.62 and a phone enquiry £2.83, compared to web enquiries which cost £0.15. The result is an unnecessary bill of up to £19m, Socitm said.

There were around 46.7 million online waste related enquires last year, on questions including recycling centre opening times, collection charges, ordering more bags and containers and reporting missing bins or flytipping.

Socitm’s survey of all council websites, due to be published on 1 March, shows that only one-third of councils with rubbish collection responsibilities were able to meet Socitm’s standard for questions relating to collection of an old bed. These included: Am I able to request an old bed collection online? Is it clear that the council will not help you to prepare the item for collection? Does a search for the task description return the correct result listed in the first five results?

Poor searchability on council websites, burying information in PDF documents, and only listing waste and recycling only under “Environment” sections of the website, were among areas identified where improvement was most needed.

Information regarding opening times of recycling centres was better, with two-thirds of councils meeting Socitm’s standard.

The Better Connected report for 2013 is accessible via the Socitm website, and is free for council employees.

  • Read more in a feature on Socitm’s research findings in this week’s issue of MRW or on the website from Friday.

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