back to article preps bonfire of the vanity websites

Hundreds of taxpayer-funded websites will be unplugged in a savings drive that the government says will cut millions from departmental budgets. A Cabinet Office review launched today aims to identify 75 per cent of the government's 820 websites for closure by September. The surviving services will be required to slash their …


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  1. James 5

    Can we please...

    .. extend this cull to ALL vanity sites and web offerings. Should get rid of 90% of the crap on social web sites and reduce twitter mutterings by 95% hence saving bandwidth.

    Good call if it works!

  2. Adrian Challinor

    Did I just bankrupt the country?

    I visited, which el Reg says costs just under £12 per visit. Not sure how you calculate this, but it sounds a little steep for what it gives you. Definitely not worth the price of a round!

    Shut them all down - who would notice?

    1. Dave Cradle

      Cart before horse

      cost to build and maintain divided by number of hits over this time period.

      So if it cost 24 quid to build, and 2 people visited the site, that's 12 notes per squint.

      Not a measure of quality: if you were trying to measure its cost compared to its worth then it would either be infinite or zero, depending on how drunk I am.

    2. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Not necessarily......

      distributing documentation and improving communications for a relatively small, but very lucrative area, may be expensive but value is different from expense. You need to look at that rather than the number of visits - where, for example, will beat ukti, but the measures of 'value' will be rather different.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Me too

      That's £24 we cost the country.

      How many more?

      Is it irresponsible of El Reg to publish stuff like this, knowing full well that their easily led, immature readership just can't resist clicking on those links?

      1. Mike Flugennock
        Thumb Up

        Me three

        Kinda reminds me of the early days of Web advertising; it was pay-per-click back then, as I recall, and many of us out there took revenge on advertisers and their annoying bilge by clicking on every banner we saw, repeatedly, at every opportunity. You should've heard the pissed-off shrieking from the marketing types over the way we "broke" their business model. Ahh, memories

  3. Bonce

    Efficiency board

    "Under the new regime no new websites will be allowed except by the special permission of an efficiency board run by the Cabinet Office and the Treasury."

    Hmmm, I wonder how much the efficiency board will cost to operate once the expense account is taken into account. My guess is around £30k per website they approve.

  4. Efros


    Looks as if some IP numbers may be freed up at least!

  5. Anonymous Coward

    I know that problem all to well

    Working for a local authority has the same problems, rogue depts going out an getting websites built and hosted by external companies, 6months to a year later they run out of budget and want to bring the site in-house and host on our CMS, which obviously creates a workload that suddenly becomes urgent as funds are running out and the site will be switched off.

    The other part of the problem is these rogue depts all think they have design skills and the qaulity of some of these sites is appalling. My job is too make the sites as effective as possible for the residents while keeping costs as low as possible, it makes me cry inside when I come across a site we supposedly have had a hand in (9 times out of 10 I stumble across these sites as well rather than a member of staff telling me about them).

  6. s. pam

    Let's go one step further....Mr. Cameron are you listening?

    So we're going to get rid of so many of the d4mn useless sites, wahey that's great. Let's NOT stop there -- let's ZAP the government people who approved them to make the toughness equal, as the new gubmnt keeps espousing. Why should the idiots who wanted gazillions get to keep their jobs when the poor sods who did as told will regardless, let's make it a true cost saving party!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @let's ZAP the government people who approved them

      As in investigate for massive fraud? I simply do not believe that those sums could have gone on so few websites without criminal intent (as opposed to mere criminal incompetence).

  7. Peter Bradley

    Tell me this isn't so...



  8. Stuart 22

    Anecdotal Evidence

    WTF has anecdotal evidence to do this side of homeopathy and creationism?

    £120m or so on websites seems remarkably small for communicating where half our income goes - oh and handle billions of pounds in tax & vat returns and payments.

    How much, in comparison, do they spend on printed communication and brochures?

    Take the axe to the big trees - not the saplings!

    OK so we have silly sites but in the real world of business the test is to delegate a budget and look for the best return. That's for the responsible person to decide. If they do well they get promoted, if not the HR beckons. The thought of some central bureaucracy trying to decide on a departments best communication strategy smacks of Stalinism. I thought this government was against that?

    *Throws Hands Up*

  9. John G Imrie

    False ecommamy?, an export information service, which costs £11.78 per visit

    The real question that should be being asked is not how much per click, but how much cash is generated per pound spent.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Put title here

    How much is the taxpayer paying the Martha Fox for her views on how effective government websites are. Why not just look at the number of visitors to the website, low numbers so not well used then scrap it.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Cabinet office?

    The one which has grown from 300 to 5,600 people in the last 13 years?

  12. Graham Bartlett

    Potato Marketing Board?!?!?!

    FFS. It's a spud. You chip it, fry it, roast it, bake it, boil it, mash it. It's part of the daily diet of just about every person in the country. No-one is ever likely to stop eating spuds, and nor is ads for them going to make them eat more.

    It's like ads for "breathe more oxygen" or "drink more water". OK, there are ads for "drink more water" - but they're actually for "drink more water which we've cunningly diverted from your tapwater supply and bottled so we can charge you £2 a shot for something you'd get for 2p from a tap", so that doesn't really count.

  13. Oliver 7

    Blind leading the blind

    75% cut is just a budget target, it has nothing to do with the efficiency or the effectiveness of the sites in question. However my experience of tax payer funded Web sites suggests this may not matter....

    I used to work for a public body supporting a Web site that allowed farmers to claim EU CAP subsidies. There was an EU legal requirement to provide this online capability, failure to do so resulted in a fine. The Web site required a 20% uptake (of those entitled) to break even but they couldn't get it any higher than 10% (despite huge EU grants to roll out satellite broadband to remote rural communities). Being British we did everything by the book and ended up hosing money down the drain. What did the Irish do? They just paid the EU fine and sent out the paperwork!

    Civil servants just don't live in the real world. When I left they were in the process of considering whether to adapt the site, at great expense, to bring it in line with accessibility guidelines - I mean, how many Web-savvy disabled farmers can there be?!!

    1. Rob Farnell

      Disabled Farmers

      "I mean, how many Web-savvy disabled farmers can there be?!!"

      Haven't you read Bill Bryson's - Note's from a big country. Most of the farmers he knew had bits missing or ridiculous injuries from all the moving parts and lack of knowledge/care/h&s/pure curiosity. However, I'd be more surprised if they were Web-savvy.

    2. Gwilym

      let me guess...

      This site only works in IE6, please upgrade your browser?

  14. TeeCee Gold badge

    Quality weasel words.

    "It is not good enough to have websites which do not deliver the high quality services which people expect and deserve."

    So the switchoff is to be based on some chair polisher's opinion of what is or is not a "high quality service"? Translation: whatever the Minister thinks is trendy this week.

    It might be better to go with: "It is not good enough to have websites which nobody gives a rat's arse about.". Trouble is, that's probably all of them......

  15. Gav

    Fame Costs

    ", an export information service, which costs £11.78 per visit"

    Stop linking to it then! Well done, you've probably just cost the country another £117.80 by your irresponsible publicity of this website.

  16. bobbles31

    A company I worked for.....

    Had gotten itself into a terrible mess with no one knowing what was on what server, who was using what etc etc. Despite repeatedly asking the business openly who owned which apps there were no takers for a handful of apps. In the end we conducted a short process to identify mission critical apps then turned everything off eventually people came crawling out of the woodwork to ask what had happened to x or y app.

    Perhaps that approach should be taken here, turn them all off and then evaluate which ones to turn back on based on the noise from the public about a site being unavailable. I bet a surprising percentage don't so much raise a call to a helpdesk.

  17. Richard Mason

    UK Trade Info is good for a laugh

    We export a lot of items, so we have signed up for alerts to changes in EU Tariff Codes, so we get sent links to interesting documents like this one that came in a couple of weeks ago.

    (Warning, PDF)

    1. BongoJoe


      And, exactly what is a human being supposed to do with this supposed information?

      This is red tape nonsense of the highest order.

      Yours off to lie on his 9404-10-00.

  18. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Sorry, I like this idea.

    Species evolution depends on a lot of death by natural causes. If you want archives go to a graveyard or a library.

  19. Maty


    Now if the most expensive website costs £11 something a visitor, and Businesslink "The official government website for businesses of all sizes" costs £2.15 a hit, something doesn't add up.

    A quick check of the Businesslink homepage reveals at least twelve objects, and therefore twelve hits for a visitor arriving on the opening page - i.e. £25.80.

    Please tell me that the Reg knows the difference between a visit and a hit. It's kind of fundamental, like talking storage and not knowing a bit from a byte.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    oh the irony

    So, Martha Lane Fox "will also look at sharing resources and facilities and using low-cost open source products to reduce running costs."

    Now as I recall, back in the 90s, CCTA used to host HMG websites on a common infrastructure of apache servers running on Linux (anyone remember Both CCTA and the services it provided to HMG were axed by one Peter Gershon in the name of "cost savings".

    Obviously that worked then.

  21. not.known@this.address Silver badge

    Are you lot taking the p***?

    A website costs £n to create, where n is a number of GBP (probably a stupidly large number for a site).

    If it has 1 visitor then the effective "cost per visitor" is £n/1, or whatever it cost in the first place. With 2 visitors that becomes £n/2, ten visitors makes £n/10, and so on - the website costs the same, but the "cost per visitor" goes DOWN, not up.

    So by doubling the number of visitors you effectively halve the cost-per-visitor, not double it.

    They're on about the effective cost per visit to the taxpayer, not how much it costs every time someone accesses the site(s) - two totally different things entirely.

  22. DaWolf

    this makes no sense

    you have setup costs, and running costs

    if their costs are that high for *running costs* then they should see whether it is better to minimise those running costs or eliminate the service

    if their costs are *setup costs* then eliminating the service will not save a penny, and in fact will cost because the service will need to be provided in some other manner.

    so, what proportion of those costs is which?

    also, without knowing the benefit you're getting, how can you even start to calculate value for money?

  23. CogniDox

    How do you spend £35 million on a Website?

    I took a look at what technology (Microsoft, Open Source) these websites are using, and whether it made any difference to the costs.

    Results and discussion at

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The gubbermint could save a small fortune.....

    if they shoved it all on Freewebs or somesuchlike, I'm sure the bandwidth on all these vanity sites doesn't amount to much.

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