Council defends £1m spend on a website

Herts County Council's www.hertsdirect.org website as it appears now
Herts County Council's www.hertsdirect.org website as it appears now

County Hall chiefs have defended their plan to spend up to £1million on launching a new website.

Herts County Council says it is basing the figure on what products are available and what it cost other large organisations to do the same thing.

It is hoped that the ‘next generation website’ will save the authority up to £240,000 a year when it is launched in 2016.

Last year, the current www.hertsdirect.org website – developed in 2010 – had more than 5million visits and handled almost 850,000 transactions. For example, 99 per cent of parents applied for school places for their children using our online forms.

The £240,000 saving will come partly from fewer calls to the council’s phone helpline, it is hoped. The helpline is managed by a private company, which is paid on the basis of how many calls it takes.

New technology would help the authority make further savings.

Assistant director for libraries and customer services Taryn Pearson said the council spends £750,000 a year on software, licencing, servers and other costs for its current website. The running costs of its new website are expected to be £600,000 per year.

Taryn said: “Things have moved on a great deal in the last four years. Things will move on in the next 18 months and we will have a very robust procurement process.

“We have got a number of months now where we will really need to think about what we want this new website to achieve. We are adamant that we need a new one.”

Officials will seek to use a much more user-friendly language on the new website, with less council jargon.

In the meantime, www.hertsdirect.org will be made more smart phone-friendly and its search engine function will be improved.

To give feedback on the website, email web.team@hertfordshire.gov.uk