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Government website count whittled down to 444

Hundreds of websites closed over the last year, more closures on the way

Some 376 government websites have been closed in the last 12 months, the Cabinet Office has revealed.

The closures are part of the government's drive to cut costs, but also to prepare for a single government web domain, which is currently in beta version.

The Central Government Websites annual report revealed that there are now 444 websites open, compared to 820 last year, and that 1,526 government websites have closed since the rationalisation programme began in 2010.

The Department for Education (DfE) also closed three websites, Teachernet.gov.uk, Governornet.gov.uk and Standards.gov.uk, and moved the content to the main DfE site. In doing so, the department has achieved savings of more than £1.7 million.

Furthermore, the Department for Transport (DfT) said that had cut website costs by moving from an enterprise content management system for its corporate website in June 2011, to an open source solution and a new hosting platform. It did not specify how much it saved, but reported that its hosting and infrastructure cost for last year was £6.7 million.

"This announcement shows the significant progress that we're making in government digital services. We are cutting costs, duplications and contradictions to make government web services easier to use and cheaper for the taxpayer," said Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office.

The report also revealed which central government website had the most visitors over the last year, with the Ministry of Defence leading with 238.8 million (at a total cost of £3.97 million or 2p per visitor), followed by Direct.gov.uk, which reported 187.4 million visitors (at a total cost of £21.4 million or 11p per visitor ). The total number of visits across all the sites was more than 1.3 billion.

The website rationalisation programme followed recommendations that the government's digital champion Martha Lane Fox made in a report in November 2010. Her report found that the government published via so many different websites that there was a "significant" amount of duplication and "highly inconsistent" user experience.

Meanwhile, Alpha.gov.uk, the government's single domain website, is expected to be available for public testing in early 2012.

Government departments have committed to close more than half of the remaining websites. Currently 134 websites have been approved to be retained for the time being, while the single domain is being developed.

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