For months members of the Mayor’s team have been working on proposals to radically update and rebuild City Hall’s website.
I wrote about this work and some of the reasoning behind it back in June.
To date most discussion about the project has taken place at the Bureau of Leaders – a regular off the record meeting of the Mayor and Assembly group leaders – but on Tuesday the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee heard a little more about the need for the overhaul.
In a very good month the current london.gov.uk website struggles to pull in 200,000 visitors, of which less than 80,000 will be Londoners. If those low figures weren’t depressing enough, 62% of all visitors leave as soon as the home page loads.
Those who bravely solider on are confronted with a tired looking site, hideously fragmented presentation of information and very little for them to engage with.
The ambition is to create a new website which makes content easier to find and better explains how the Mayoralty, Assembly and Greater London Authority machinery fit together.
This is an aim which everyone at City Hall should share – politicians have a duty to ensure those they represent can easily understand what they’re getting for their money.
The existing website makes that close to impossible.
Information is presented in silos depending on whether it originates from the Mayor and his team or the Assembly.
If you’re interested in policing you currently need to cross reference the pages for both the Assembly’s Police & Crime Committee and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to be sure you’re getting the full picture.
But surely that’s not how Londoners expect to find information?
Wouldn’t it be better if all the policing content was accessible via a single section or page? If you want to know when the next policing related meeting is taking place should you really have to check both here and here?
Breaking down the silos, pulling together the acres of information City Hall produces and presenting it in a way which serves Londoners is a major project.
To be done properly the site needs to be completely rebuilt from the ground up in such a way that it can easily grow and develop in line with future demand.
And a site which does all that will cost money.
Boris’s chief spinner Will Walden told AMs on Tuesday that he expected the project to cost something in the region of £2m.
That might sound like a lot of money and some may be tempted to gather up their spare outrage and slam the Mayor for “wasting” £2m on a vanity project while hard-pressed Londoners are struggling to get by.
But they’d be wrong.
Engaging with and informing voters is a key duty of elected politicians. Londoners deserve a site which helps them follow and understand the work of their Government and they don’t have one.
Of course, a pretty looking site could be cobbled together on a shoe string but it would lack the robustness needed to serve long-term as the home of a £16bn a year Government.
The goal of the Mayor’s team is to create a website which supports not just Boris and the Assembly but their successors too – a potential lifetime of at least a decade.
That’s a mere £200k a year to ensure 7m Londoners can understand the work of, and hold to account, their politicians. How can that be anything other than money well spent?