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Cash-strapped English and Welsh cops prepare to centralise all 43 forces' websites

Centralisation was such a success when GOV.UK came in, after all

Plans are under way to consolidate the websites of England and Wales' 43 police forces, in a bid to improve the public's 'digital contact' with the cops – including better online crime reporting.

Dan Bowden, digital public contact programme lead at the Police ICT Company, said: "Depending on where you live in the country you will get a very different service to digital policing. Whether its online crime recording, tracking, opening up services and messaging."

“As a member of the public you ought to be able to report online, track online, find out what your local bobby is doing,” he continued. “Get updates on things, and pay for things regardless of whether you are in a rural or urban area.”

The digital public contact programme also aims to improve the way police interact with the public over social media – such as reporting images of criminals.

Pressure is growing on all blue light services to shake up their digital contact systems. Last year the Institution of Engineering and Technology called on all 999 services to to incorporate text and social media responses.

After an extremely long process the Police ICT Company finally got off the ground last year. It is funded by police forces with the remit of reducing cops' annual IT bill of £1bn.

By bringing all the websites under one roof, Bowden hopes to save cops significant cash in the many licensing and hosting agreements currently in place.

"The websites look and feel is very different, the infrastructure sat behind it is very different, what you can do on them as a member of the public is very different licensing, costing models at different stages of their lives. Do it once, scalable significantly cheaper," he told The Register.

He said the ambition is to have a single police website, with forces migrating to the main site as their licensing and hosting deals come up for renewal. He said the company was still in the "very early stages" of the plan, but at least two forces have signed up.

The company will build off the back of something already in existence, such as WordPress, or even use the Government Digital Service's GOV.UK site, which itself consolidated 3,500 government websites under one domain name.

"At the moment we're not ruling anything out," Bowden said. ®

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