Tony Blair’s government is lagging so seriously behind targets for getting itself online it could wipe out the cost savings such wiring up was supposed to effect, according to research.

According to US analyst firm Forrester Research, the government is not only failing in its efforts to get all of its services running online by 2005, but could imperil the £3.7bn in projected cost savings to taxpayers.

Based on a study of 14 government departments conducted in November 2000, the research found those involved with the online projects suffer a lack of IT knowledge, Forrester analyst Caroline Sceats said.

"The government doesn't really understand how to work with fast moving, small e-commerce vendors and how to build partnerships," Sceats said.

Only 13 percent of the vendors currently working with the government are confident that it will reach its goal of getting all services online by 2005, Sceats said.

Last week Andrew Pinder became the new e-Envoy in the Cabinet Office, charged with heading up online government efforts. Pinder replaces Alex Allan, whom it was said by some was the only really IT-literate politician involved in the online government schemes.

But the Office of the e-Envoy, part of the Cabinet Office, doesn’t take Forrester terribly seriously. "We thought the research was pretty weedy and we don't think much of Forrester's methodology," said Ben Wilson, an e-Envoy spokesman. According to Wilson, more than 40 percent of UK government services are already online and that number is expected to grow to 70 percent by 2002.

A separate study by pollster firm MORI published in September 2000 showed four in ten MPs do not believe the government will be able to reach the 2005 deadline. This compares to only a quarter of MPs asked the same question back in January 2000.

Find out more about ‘e-government’ at the Cabinet Office website