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'Crucial' Role for eGovernment in Extending User Choice

24 July 2003

An influential policy think-tank has called for a new debate on the controversial issue of 'choice' in the delivery of local government services, claiming that eGovernment may play a 'crucial' role.

A newly-published pamphlet by the New Local Government Network recommends policies and guidance on how increased user choice could be successfully implemented and managed.

The paper argues that bringing elements of choice or competition into local public services would help them to evolve more rapidly and effectively to users' needs than mechanisms such as consultations and referenda.

The authors acknowledge the potential problems and consequences of choice - such as the issue that private sector contractors are rarely asked to build user choice into their tender proposals and that user satisfaction is rarely a criterion for payment.

"More profound, however", the pamphlet notes, "are the problems that arise from trying to create market–like mechanisms.

"These include the need to have a degree of excess capacity if choice is to really work and the need for mechanisms to move resources around quickly in response to differing user choices.

"E-government may be crucial here. The spread of Broadband in particular offers opportunities for increasingly speedy and sophisticated interactions between users and the service providers aiming to respond to their choices. Authorities such as Sunderland, for instance, are looking to co-locate more local public sector services while utilising the power of new technology."

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