Awful gov


Have you tried the website?  Isn’t it absolutely awful?

Can you find anything? Can you find the things you used to be able to find?

Where, for example, can you find a list of Defra ministers’ speeches? Do they not speak these days? I would have mixed feelings about that.

This is what I can find:


Can it possibly be true that Defra ministers haven’t met anyone, haven’t said anything, haven’t received any hospitality since March last year?  Maybe I’ve missed it – but it isn’t because I haven’t looked…

These are the latest documents uploaded to the Defra site…


Handy eh? Not really, but then this is only page 1 of 94 so maybe what I am looking for is on page 63 – it’s rather difficult to tell isn’t it? (I looked on page 63 and it isn’t there either).

I want to make a serious point here. This one single government website is less informative and less easy to use than its multiple predecessors. If you were the least bit suspicious of this government then you might think it had been done on purpose to obscure government actions and policies from the taxpayers who pay for it and the voters who might well choose another bunch of politicians in future.

This government has done away with watchdogs and independent commissions who had the time and wit to question what government was doing on the environment and now it has obscured its own actions on its own website.

This is highly reprehensible.  I suggest you send FOI and EIR requests to Defra on any subjects that you wish to know about and say that you can’t find the information on the government website. I also suggest that you write to your MP on this matter – I certainly shall.

You’ll be glad to hear that Natural England has just lost its own website and become part of the website.  Try using it and see if you can find out what NE is doing.

When I put ‘natural england press releases’ into the search engine I got this:


If you do the same then you will find that the search throws up little about NE and lots about healthcare, higher education and statutory audits – that wasn’t what I was looking for.

Try putting ‘natural england SSSI condition assessment’ into the search engine and then ‘natural england SSSI condition’ – you get some very different results, and not different in a way that makes any sense to me at all. But maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only person who ever tries to find things out through government websites  or maybe I am the only person so thick that they cannot figure it out now. Am I?

It’s somewhat Orwellian – its NEwspeak for sure.

I think it’s awful gov (or guv).



26 Replies to “Awful gov”

  1. So things really have never been so unclear on government action on UKRAINE environmental issues. What’s next?

  2. Can you find anything?

    Of course not. Govt policy on communications has nothing to do with providing information. I expect you’ll be expecting policy based on evidence next.

  3. I agree Mark it is a terribly designed website, it’s just not good enough.

    I noticed that when you go to the Natural England page, towards the bottom under the section headed ‘Our Policies’, the first policy reads: “Stimulating economic growth in rural areas”….since when was that NE’s role?!

    1. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Destruction is conservation.
      (with apologies to Mr Orwell)

    2. “terribly designed website”

      Did they take their cue from the EA? Their site was always difficult but the improved version is useless. Did they employ the same web designers ( on purpose having notice the fall in traffic at the EA?

  4. “Can you find anything? Can you find the things you used to be able to find?”

    What – like the elecatricity? As you were – it’s come back on. Was it ex-Hurricane Gonzo or just because all the all the windmills are off, as it’s a tad windy?

    The .gov thing: A chocolate teapot is more use. Good thing I print most things I need to .pdf and file them. Googling often finds what you are looking for on .gov when its own .gov search doesn’t. In fact there’s no point in wasting time looking – go straight to Google. If you have leccy.

    I’m off down the shop to buy a butane camping hob. I like hot food, especially during the winter.

    1. “Was it ex-Hurricane Gonzo or just because all the all the windmills are off, as it’s a tad windy?” ???

      Wind giving 14 – 16% of UK electricity all day today c6GW certainly not turned off

  5. A several months ago I read in our local newspaper (Westmorland Gazette) about Owen Paterson’s visit to Cumbria and some very personal visits to local South Lakes farms owned by National Sheep Association members and also the new auction Mart off the M6 (i.e. carefully arranged photo opp and lobbying/ PR). One page spread. Was anything noted on the Defra /Gov website on this visit? Nope. Nada…Why so? Surely it was in the nations interest to see the Minister privately lobbied and have a day long jaunt at tax payers expense?

  6. Courtesy of DEFRA RSS today I am now expert in the disposal of unwanted bresaola and beef jerky. But I have to promise I will not cook them to alter their status.

    Formerly, in the rare event that such rare treats became surplus, I disposed of them by Flat Coated Retriever.

    RSS is OK for Now, but not for Then.

  7. It’s appalling. I have to use it every day for immigration work. If is a total nightmare. The old site was FAR better

  8. I agree that the .gov websites are fairly appalling but a component of this, is what we have all been used to previously. That is not an excuse and I don’t actually see what is being ‘saved’ by doing this. If I passed the cost on to my clients for the additional time spent searching for what I needed, then any ‘financial savings’ would be more than off-set by the loss in profits from my clients if you multiply this by the number of consultants that refer to NE’s website. As is usual with this Government, they only see (or create) short-term solutions for not really problems, especially when it comes to biodiversity and nature conservation.

    This all said, I think that the Government (Defra in particular) ought to be congratulated on publishing what must surely be the worst piece of Government guidance ever…the Biodiversity Duty for Public Bodies (available here:

    It is so bad, I actually wonder if it was genuinely meant to have been published and not added to the .gov website by accident. For those that were not aware, all local authorities and other public bodies have a duty in law to have regard to biodiversity when undertaking their normal functions, e.g. planning decisions. The duty is weak but nevertheless there is a duty. The guidance that has been published provides some “interesting” guidance on how local authorities can demonstrate compliance. The one that is “doing the rounds”and creating the most comment is for those publci bodies that need to consider coastal biodiversity. Our Government has genuinely suggested that “creating a canal on a beach” is a beneficial method for having regard to biodiversity. I’ve asked Defra to how creating a linear (freshwater?) trench in a marine setting will help; how they will stop the tide coming in twice a day to stop the canal from being washed away (!) and whether they have heard of King Canute. I am awaiting their reply. However, perhaps Mark could open this up as a suggestion. The winner gets the weblink for Defra Minister’s speeches ;p


  9. Terrible website. Even our internal net links to this rubbish and then we can’t find what we need. The real laugh is we are told to be ‘evidenced based’ and transparent when the government do exactly the opposite

  10. The loss of our (NE) website is the source of much frustration to NE staff. Much time has been spent ‘re-purposing’ (yes that are phrase) our information for this move when frankly with fewer staff and more work time could have been better spent.

    Remember that many in NE are passionate about our work and do a fantastic job.

  11. It is indeed awful (with I think a deliberately intimidating, Orwellian design), and you’d now be hard pressed to figure out what Natural England is supposed to do. The way what material remains is organised makes it look as though their primary job is to be a Tory propaganda mouthpiece. Sincere sympathies to all committed conservationists still managing to stick it out in an NE job!

  12. Disturbing reading, but not surprising, need more of these articles flowing into the mainstream media, people need to wake up, as for Natural England, that is almost a contradiction in terms. Thanks for writing this Mark, I’ll spread it as far as I can.

  13. As with so much in Government, it seems the principles have been thrown out the window. I really do feel for the GDS design team. They’ve done an extraordinary job technically and aesthetically in creating a consistent design system fit for representing the sprawl of Government sites (~4000 domains). Yet the finger of blame seems to be pointed squarely at their design rather than at, it seems, a Government who have failed to provide the resources to actually implement this grand digital strategy within the agencies and departments.

    Take a look at the Digital by Default Service Standard. Judging by Frank Jones’s comments above, criteria #2 has not been met (within NE at least):

    Put in place a sustainable multidisciplinary team that can design, build and operate the service, led by a suitably skilled and senior service manager with decision-making responsibility.

    Designing good websites is hard. Designing good Government websites is harder still, because the audience is so diverse and the domain so broad. If the Government is serious about delivering services online, it’s clear that the support and staff resources need to be in place to build and maintain those services. So attacking the website is perhaps going for the strawman rather than the more insidious underlying problem.

  14. Hi Mark, I’m product lead for GOV.UK, which means I prioritise the improvements our design and development team make to the site.

    First of all, I’m very sorry to read that you’ve struggled to find what you need. We pay close attention to feedback from users and data about how people use the site, and I must say that we’ve not seen any evidence to suggest that lots of people are have difficulty finding speeches and press releases. That’s not to undermine your experience and valid criticism – clearly we need to make this stuff a little easier to find – but I don’t think it’s as universal an experience as you’ve implied here.

    On the specifics of where to find what you need, there is a list of all speeches by Defra ministers on this page:

    If you adjust the filter options on the same page, you can see all press releases from Natural England:

    You can also find the same content via each minister’s page, for example:

    That announcements page is linked to from the homepages of both Natural England and Defra, and from the navigation menu at the top of those pages. Both organisations’ pages also include links to their ministers’ profiles.

    To help us make this content easier to find, though, it would help us to know more about how you went about trying to find it – where you expected to find it and what you expected it to be called. So if you’d be willing, we’d love it if you could give us more detail by using the feedback form here:

    GOV.UK has been built around the needs of users. That said, we know it is not perfect, and we are continually researching what users need and improving our site to meet users’ needs better. We’re very open about what we’re doing – you can see details about what we’re working on on the Inside GOV.UK blog: – we welcome comments via that blog too.

    Thanks again for the feedback.

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