Local authorities in Derbyshire have defended spending £735,500 on their websites since 2009, claiming that it is an important expense as it ensures users can gain access to important information and advice.
The figure was revealed following a freedom of information request sent to Derby City, Derbyshire Country and the borough and district councils, according to Derby Telegraph.
Since 2010, Derbyshire County Council has spent around £464,000 on creating and maintaining its online platforms.
Derbyshire’s leading website (www.derbyshire.gov.uk) averaged 9,647 users per day between July 2014 and July 2015.
The county council reportedly said the site was launched in 2004 “to make it easier, quicker and cheaper for the public to get information about our services”, and was re-launched in 2011.
A spokesman told Derby Telegraph: “We believe every penny spent on the websites is money well-spent and we get very good feedback from users who enjoy receiving up-to-date information, for example when it snows.
“Our website is designed to give people access to information at their fingertips rather than visiting a council office or spending time on the phone.”
Derby City Council allegedly averaged a little fewer than 5,000 visitors to its website in the same period, at a cost of £88.38 per day.
Since launching the site in 2011, Amber Valley Borough Council has had an average spend of £15,000 per year.
Julian Townsend, the council’s executive director of operations, said: “The website enables greater self-service, for instance by making available a wider range of both information and opportunities to transact. It enables the council to reduce the number of staff and/or redeploy staff to focus on more complex requirements.”
Derbyshire Dales District Council recorded the lowest expenditure with an average cost of £16.60 per day since 2012.
Finding the right balance
Taxpayers’ Alliance chief executive Jonathan Isaby has spoken about the importance of council websites, however has also acknowledged the importance of keeping the cost down.
“It’s absolutely vital that councils have clear, user-friendly websites so that residents can access services an information as easily as possible,” he said, adding:
“However, it is also crucial to ensure that the costs for these websites are kept down to save taxpayers’ money.
“The balance seems to be wrong here and much more must be done to save money for local residents in the future.”