In a modern office block in a midlands town is a magnificent cast iron piece of machinery. It weighs 35kg and takes physical effort to use, but someone does so up to 200 times a day: paper goes in, handles are turned, and the paper is stamped.
This machine is a “Registrar Desktop embossing machine” – or, as they are known in Milton Keynes, a “bonking machine” – and it performs the simple but essential task of ‘legalising’: embossing a stamp over the signature on your document which makes it difficult to forge.
For example, if you are emigrating and need to prove to a foreign government that the felt-tipped pen scrawls on your marriage certificate weren’t done by your 2-year old, you can get the document legalised. You send the Foreign & Commonwealth Office your certificate, pay a small fee, and someone does the bonking.
Getting your documents legalised is a very physical thing to do; but you can now make your payment digitally. And as with all services coming onto GOV.UK, there is a dashboard to help the service manager and their team see how well the service is performing.
Legalisation is one of six dashboards for Foreign & Commonwealth Office services which were released last week: you can see them all on www.gov.uk/performance/services. Now the people who own the services can see how their service is performing digitally: how many people paid last week? How many drop out when they see the cost? As with all our dashboards, they are available to interested members of the public too.
These FCO dashboards also help us to learn about different services. A few weeks ago I blogged about our first dashboard, for getting a licence, and commented that we didn’t really know if its completion rate for getting a licence was good or bad.
Well, now we have a little more evidence and know that it is somewhere in the middle. The legalisation services have a high completion rate – the public-facing service gets over 60% and the business-facing premium service can get over 80%. However, there are some services (such as Depositing a Foreign Marriage Certificate) which often have a lower rate; these services are mostly done offline with only a handful of people per week using the web, so these figures are highly volatile.
I’m delighted that we have the FCO services on board and I’d like to thank all the people in that department who have been so generous with their time on this. We hope to add some offline data to the legalisation dashboards soon and will be making dashboards for more and more services over the coming months. Do let us know if you have any feedback on these dashboards or if there is some extra functionality you would like to see.
Follow Phil on Twitter: @philbuckley5