UK government targets for local authorities to deliver all services electronically by 2005 are "restrictive rather than aspirational", according to an annual survey of council IT chiefs.
The annual IT Trends in Local Government survey, carried out by local government body the Society of IT Managers, is based on responses from nearly half the councils in the UK.
Its members fear that the deadline will result in an introduction of electronic services regardless of public benefit, explained report author Brian Westcott.
"It was a good idea to set the targets as an incentive, but to slavishly stick to implementing everything electronically for the sake of it is ridiculous," he said.
Just 28 per cent of local authority services across the UK are available electronically, and nine out of 10 authorities are reporting skill shortages in key areas needed to meet the e-government targets.
Councils should consider outsourcing routine areas of IT to concentrate on e-government and look for ways of partnering other authorities and suppliers to share costs, said Westcott.
IT spending by English, Welsh and Scottish councils in 2001 and 2002 is expected to rise 3.7 per cent from last year, to £1.87bn.
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