MORE than £37,000 was spent on revamping Sunderland City Council’s website, it has been revealed.
It included changes in design of navigation, architecture, look and feel of the site.
Civic leaders say the website now offers more for Wearsiders enabling them to carry out transactions such as bill payments online, which they claim is more cost effective.
Since the relaunch, they also say there has been an approximate 15 per cent shift from telephone services to web.
However, Conservative group leader Councillor Robert Oliver today criticised the timing of the improvements.
“The council website is much better than it used to be with more links to events in the city, easier navigation and a more attractive appearance.
“But the cost does seem very high for what is only a partial re-build of the website, and comes at a time when budgets are being reduced.
“The council really should have fixed the roof while the sun was shining, that’s to say, the website could have been improved earlier when there was money around.”
Cabinet secretary Coun Mel Speding today hit back, saying the improvements have helped to increase interest in the city and make it easier to residents to carry out transactions.
He told the Echo: “Councillor Oliver’s hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to spouting Tory party Central Office propaganda.
“It is not that long ago that his fellow Tory councillors were complaining about the standard and capability of this council’s IT provision.
“Given his Government’s policy of demanding that local authorities carry out as much business as possible through the internet, it’s a bit rich to then complain when the necessary upgrades and improvements to meet this policy costs money.
“Clearly Coun Oliver knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, and as far as mending the roof when the sun was shining, I make no apologies for this council building 27 new schools to replace those buildings, his party supplied buckets to, to catch the rain when the roof leaked.”
He added: “The internet is a key resource to facilitate making payments online, completing benefit applications, or simply checking council information about business opportunities and general issues.
“The city council believes digital communication channels, including the internet, are an important part of everyday life now.
“So it’s important we keep up to date with new technological improvements and the council’s website continues to develop.
“The re-launch of sunderland.gov.uk has seen a rise in the number of hits from 59,358 a year ago to 141,730 last month.
“This ongoing development work is allowing more residents and local businesses more opportunities to make transactions online.
“It also reflects the council’s ‘invest to save’ programme that is helping to keep costs down.”