The government has spent millions of pounds setting up a single website that allows people to search for jobs online, a minister has admitted, sparking reaction from one MP who said the public will struggle to understand why such an “incredible” expense was necessary.
Employment minister Mark Hoban said the Universal Jobmatch website had cost some £14.89m to establish. The cost of the website, which has replaced Jobcentre Plus as the government’s online job search tool, included indicative decommissioning costs and so could be even higher.
Further costs will not be revealed by the government. The minister refused to disclose the expected annual administration and maintenance cost on the grounds that it was “commercially sensitive” information. This was despite repeated transparency commitments from the coalition and claims that it has become one of the most open governments in the world.
The website was launched by the government as part of measures designed to get people back into work.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has said it was “revolutionising the way over two million people find and progress in work”.
But the site has also hit headlines after jobseekers’ details were stolen and after reports that some job adverts were only appearing in Polish.
Pamela Nash, the MP who placed the question on the cost, told Publicservice.co.uk: “To the ordinary person, £14.89m seems like an incredible amount of money to spend on a website.
“It is true that the site will deal with a large and dynamic database. However, even given that challenge it is difficult to see how the government can justify such a huge payment to set up the site.
“It is also worrying that the Department for Work and Pensions seems unwilling to reveal the ongoing maintenance costs for the site.”
The news also follows claims that the government has been penalising disadvantaged people in a policy where people are forced to apply for jobs online – creating difficulties for those who are unable to use the internet.
Responding to the concerns on the cost of the new site, a DWP spokesperson told Publicservice.co.uk: “Universal Jobmatch is a revolutionary service which transforms the way jobseekers look for work. Already more than two million have set up an account, and the site is currently seeing an average of six million searches a day.
“Value for money is at the centre of all government contracts, and the contract obligations for Universal Jobmatch include monthly performance reports.”