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Council looks to web to cut costs

PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:50 07 July 2010

Chris Hill

Breckland councillors were told the authority must embrace the digital age to save money and improve its interaction with taxpayers.

Plans to redevelop the council's outdated website and foster interaction with the public through social media channels were outlined at a meeting of the full council last Thursday.

Breckland councillors were told the authority must embrace the digital age to save money and improve its interaction with taxpayers.

Plans to redevelop the council's outdated website and foster interaction with the public through social media channels were outlined at a meeting of the full council last Thursday.

Marketing and communications officer Dominic Chessum said the burgeoning popularity of networking sites like Facebook and Twitter meant the council had to “join the conversation” or risk being left behind.

The cost of a new website and the introduction of a new governance structure is expected to cost £36,500, but Mr Chessum said costs could be recouped by encouraging people to use online resources rather than speaking directly to council officers.

“The website is difficult to use and looks dated,” he said. “We know there is a problem with the website but this is one of the primary ways the council can save cash.

“If you can divert 3,000 people away from talking to officers face-to-face, and instead make them feel comfortable dealing online, it saves the council £40,050.”

“We are bringing in a consultant to develop the site, but meanwhile we are jumping on the social media bandwagon and we are going to join that conversation.”

The meeting heard that focus groups formed from Breckland residents would be used to help gauge the effectiveness of the new site, which is expected to be launched by the end of August.

Councillors asked about the possibility of using the website for commercial advertising to generate revenue, and whether the enhanced site would be available in rural broadband blackspots.

They were told that advertising was technically possible in principle, and that text-only versions of the site would also be developed to ensure fast accessibility.

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