GDS in push to close redundant government websites

Central government digital team gets councils to close down unused sites

By Colin Marrs

01 Oct 2015

Councils have agreed to close around 30 redundant websites as part of a drive by the Government Digital Service to maintain the reputation of the domain.

The GDS has carried out an audit of sites owned by councils and related local bodies over the past year.

Officials checked 1,900 local government sites, and contacted owners if the sites breach current GDS guidelines by being inaccessible, not functional or leading to a non-government domain.

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In a blog posting, Evans Bissessar, chair of the GDS naming and approvals committee, said: “I wrote to domain owners when their websites didn’t meet our guidelines and asked them to rectify the problem.

“The bottom line is to maintain trust in our world-leading website, Every time a user clicks on a local council website ( is a made-up example) that takes them to a domain (, the recognition and trust of is chipped away.”

Bissessar said that local authorities should retire old domains and consolidate different services under their main website.

“Some owners don’t realise that defensive registration on is not necessary and have a small stockpile of domains (which they’ve probably owned since the internet began!),” he said.

“We’ve got to maintain trust for the user and by keeping these domains open for long periods when they are found to be ineligible erodes that trust,” he added.

There is no risk that sites owned by councils would become taken over by a “cybersquatter”, making it difficult for the council to reopen the site in future, according to the blog posting.

Bissessar said: “We’ll never allow a non-public sector individual to register with our domain.”

Savings to councils from closing a domain are relatively small at around £40 plus VAT over a two year period.

In a separate project, the government is working with government departments, search engines and government lawyers to eradicate sites pretending to be sites.

These dupe users into paying fees for services available for free on legitimate domains, such as passports and driving licenses.

Bissessar said: “I want to safeguard the public by ensuring all government related services can be found at a domain - whether or a local authority one. If a local authority or organisation has a domain, they should use it.”

Councils concerned that they might be breaching the standards can get in touch with the Naming and Approvals Committee via the registrar JANET.

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