https://insidegovuk.blog.gov.uk/2014/01/13/gov-uk-organisation-types-a-user-guide/

GOV.UK organisation types: a user guide (updated June 2014)

The information in this blogpost may now be out of date. See the current GOV.UK content and publishing guidance.

We’ve been asked recently what type of organisation gets a presence on GOV.UK - and what sort of presence they get. It’s been a while since we set out our principles on this, so we thought we’d reiterate.

Talk to us first

Classification of some organisations can be tricky, and we need to keep a handle on all the organisations live on the site. So you must  talk to us before creating or removing any organisations.

Organisations

Departments, agencies and arms-length bodies

All of the following types of organisation must, at the very least, have a landing page on GOV.UK, and form part of our definitive list of government organisations.

  • ministerial departments
  • non-ministerial departments
  • executive agencies
  • non-departmental public bodies

We make our decision on which organisations fall into the above categories based on the Cabinet Office's list of public bodies.

Organisations which are exempt from moving its web content to GOV.UK (eg Ordnance Survey) have a simple landing page, handing off to their website.

All other organisations have a full corporate presence on GOV.UK . They each get a similar homepage template, but can choose which parts to use. For example:

  • Smaller organisations should follow the example of the Industrial Development Advisory Board and have a lightweight page which explains what they do, list reports and senior officials, and contact details
  • Larger organisations such as Public Health England can choose to use the full functionality of an organisation profile, with news releases and a full set of corporate pages

‘Other’ government organisations

The ‘other’ category in our organisations list covers:

Homepage functionality for these groups is the same as for departments and agencies, above.

Groups

Below the level of ‘organisation’ (departments, agencies, arm’s length bodies and ‘other’) there are 2 formats for modelling units/teams/groups/etc:

  • High-profile group
  • Group

Before you request to use one of these formats you should understand the user need for information about your group. There may be no need to model it on GOV.UK separately from the parent organisation: a collection of documents produced by the group (and tagged to the parent organisation) may be enough.

High-profile group

High-profile groups are large units within organisations which, although they formally exist under the governance of their parent organisation, have the properties of a separate organisation and are seen by the public as having a separate identity. Examples include Border Force and The Shareholder Executive.

Homepages for high-profile groups are the same as those for ‘full’ organisations, except they display links to their parent department(s) under their own name.

To qualify as a high-profile group, a unit should:

  • be well-known and public-facing (there should be evidence that the public are searching for it by name)
  • have a regular throughput of content, published under its name (rather than that of the parent department)
  • have a clear mission statement and corporate structure separate from its parent organisation (eg, a board, reporting directly to a perm sec or minister)
  • be contactable directly by the public

High-profile groups are also expected to have a publishing team with the resource to manage their profile page and content and have a parent department who agree that a separate corporate online presence is essential to the implementation of their digital strategy.

They are currently listed at the bottom of their parent department homepage. We’re also intending to feature them as part of the main organisations list.

They can have short URLs in the form www.gov.uk/xxx.

Group

This 'group' format has replaced ‘Policy advisory group’ and ‘Team’ formats. It’s still the correct format for policy advisory groups (PAGs) and policy teams (provided there’s a user need, of course) but it’s flexible enough to handle many other types of group.

The criteria for using the Group format differ between PAGs and other groups.

A. Policy advisory groups

PAGs are panels of people who advise on policy development, typically comprising a mixture of external experts and civil servants - for example, the Advisory Group on Hepatitis.

The user need for Group page for a PAG is transparency: the public should be able to see who is advising on and influencing government policy.

A Group page for a PAG should contain information about:

  • who its members are
  • members’ status
  • the remit of the PAG
  • who the PAG reports to
  • meetings and minutes

B. Other groups

This category includes units, teams, committees etc within, set up or sponsored by a government organisation, and who carry out specific areas of work - for example, the Neighbourhood Planning Team.

Most groups will not require a Group page, because people should not need to understand the structure of government in order to interact with it. Usually a reference to the group elsewhere on GOV.UK, eg in a policy page or a document collection, will be sufficient.

Group pages should only be set up where there is evidence of a user need for information about the group itself, not just its outputs, and where there is a clear reason for users to contact the group.

A Group page for a non-PAG group should include:

  • a succinct description of what the group does
  • reasons why people from outside the organisation should contact the group
  • direct contact details
  • a link to the group’s most important publication or document collection

Group pages should not be used as a way of setting out:

  • the internal structure of an organisation (ie representing every team)
  • activities performed by a group (eg documents published) without a call to action

Is this helpful?

Hope so. If not, or you'd like more detail, then please comment and we'll respond.

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Revision history

13 June 2014: updated to redundant guidance on 'team' format, and provide greater detail on the criteria for the 'group' format.

13 comments

  1. Comment by Robin Carswell posted on

    Hey Graham,

    For the benefit of all the new transitioning departments, can you clarify the rules on Friendly URLs? (What sets out the policy, why certain would be approved and why others rejected, why you might want to have two?)

    Example:
    http://www.gov.uk/ho vs http://www.gov.uk/home-office vs http://www.gov.uk/homeoffice

    Thanks
    R

  2. Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

    Hi Graham, bit of an aside, but is there anywhere we can see all the short-cuts used on GOV.UK, whether for pages or organisations?
    For example http://www.gov.uk/defra is a lot neater to tell people than http://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-environment-food-rural-affairs

  3. Comment by Chris posted on

    What about the House of Lords Whips' Office? http://www.lordswhips.org.uk/

    • Replies to Chris>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. Looking at this briefly, I think we wouldn't list this as it's a parliamentary - rather than central government - body.

      • Replies to Graham Francis>

        Comment by Stephen posted on

        But you do include the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/the-office-of-the-leader-of-the-house-of-commons and the Office of the Leader of the House of Lords https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/office-of-the-leader-of-the-house-of-lords. The Whips Office "is responsible for the management of the Government’s legislative programme in the House of Lords" which sounds fairly government-orientated?

        Speaking more generally, will the principles behind Gov.uk be rolled out to encompass Parliamentary websites in future?

        • Replies to Stephen>

          Comment by Graham Francis posted on

          Yup, we include the Offices of the Leaders as these are formally ministerial departments - so meet our criteria. But will check out the Whips Office in more detail. Thanks for keeping an eye out...

          • Replies to Graham Francis>

            Comment by Chris posted on

            Additionally, the website itself says "The office is part of the Cabinet Office’s Government in Parliament Group."!

          • Replies to Graham Francis>

            Comment by Graham Francis posted on

            Ah. The sheer, unalloyed joy of categorising government bodies. So basically, at the moment there are two main reasons we don't list the Lords Whips Office.

            First, the Lords Whips site has an exemption from moving to GOV.UK, because it has a considerable crossover with parliamentary business (if you take a look at the site, you'll see what I mean. There's not a strong argument that its work is relevant to the public at large).

            Second, as an team or group within Cabinet Office, it wouldn't automatically get a listing on our organisations page anyway. As our guidance says, we tend just to list those things which are formally classified as separate govt bodies - or are high-profile to the public - to keep our list manageable.

            Often though these things are judgement calls, so if there's a feeling out there that we could better meet user need by listing things differently, happy to listen.

  4. Comment by Stephen posted on

    More generally on the content above; what about statutory corporations such as Network Rail and the BBC? Surely as wholly-owned-by-government organisations they ought to have at least some presence via landing pages?

  5. Comment by Graham Lee posted on

    This doesn't include independent reviews - such as the Macur Review, unless the assumption is that they would fall under 'other'.

    Categories themselves won't make a lot of sense to the public. There are plenty of people in government who don't understand the difference between 'non-departmental public bodies', 'executive agencies', &c. 'Simple, clearer' site shouldn't use these confusing labels.

    • Replies to Graham Lee>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Hi - independent reviews we currently put in the 'other' category - as they are bodies set up by govt.

      • Replies to Graham Francis>

        Comment by Graham Lee posted on

        Hi Graham,

        Thanks for confirming.

        Still think labels could do with being a little clearer.

        Kind regards,

        Graham