.gov.uk domains 

Welcome to our information page to help Suffolk local councils understand and consider/plan a move to .gov.uk domains.    

 What is a .gov.uk domain

A domain acts as an address to help people find you (like a street address).  The difference between a .co.uk domain and a .gov.uk one is that .gov.uk are only available to government departments and agencies.  This means registration is strictly controlled and this can help provide assurance that your council is an official layer of local government.

What are the benefits and risks

As a tier of the public sector, is vital that town and parish councils work securely and effectively.  The benefits of having a .gov.uk domain includes better controls and protection against cyber harm and consistency on the way information is handled and stored.  This will result in enabling a more efficient way of handling freedom of information or subject access requests.  Administratively it also easier when somebody leaves the organisation for a host of reasons including ensuring data is deleted which is currently not possible where individual private email addresses are used. 

What to do if your council is considering moving

You should contact the Parish Council Domain Helper Service to help you get started by completing this form. This will register your interest and result in you being invited to one of their virtual introductory sessions which will last approximately 45 minutes.  You will be able to choose a date and time with new dates being added throughout the year.     The service will provide guidance at key stages including picking the best Approved Registrar, setting up your new domain and maintaining good practices after your new site has gone live.     The Service will also tell you how you can access funding (£100 plus VAT) to help with the initial set up costs. This funding is only available for this financial year and will be awarded to the first 1000 councils. So far, 283 councils have benefitted from the funding.

Questions?

We have put together some frequently asked questions below and will continue to add to this information to help parishes in Suffolk below.  In addition you can download this document with FAQs (this link will take you to a shared Google drive and a live document which is being kept up to date) which will help support a business case/report when a council is considering these matters.  In addition, we have also started to map questions coming through to SALC below: 

The Parish Council Domain Helper Service has been set up to help raise awareness and support to the sector and in this current financial year has funding available.  They will provide guidance at key stages including picking the best Approved Registrar, setting up your new domain and maintaining good practices after your new site has gone live.  

The Service will also tell you how you can access funding (£100 plus VAT) to help with the initial set up costs. Click on this link to view the latest NALC bulletin regarding funding.

Here is a case study from Walberswick Parish Council explaining what was involved including costs.  Please note this was before the Parish Council Domain Service was available.

We are not a large Parish Council (our precept is £20,000) and, in line with established good practice, for a number of years we have required Councillors and staff to keep their Parish Council emails on a separate account to their private email; we all used gmail accounts for this. However we took the decision in late 2023 to move to a .gov.uk domain name (walberswick-pc.gov.uk) and associated email addresses (e.g.  a.lewis@walberswick-pc.gov.uk  ) for all Councillors and staff. There were several drivers of this: 1) We had experience of having an ex-councillor carry on using their Council email address after they stopped being a Councillor and we wanted to be able to “turn off” Council email traffic as soon as someone ceased being a Councillor, 2) we had always been conscious of how easy it would be for someone to start “mimicking” our email addresses and start sending emails as if they were a Councillor, and 3) Our RFO (who looks after several Parish Councils) made us aware of a recommendation from a SALC internal audit that this becoming more strongly recommended and might ultimately lead to needing an explanation on our AGAR as to why we didn’t have a .gov.uk domain.

Our provider:  The providers of .gov.uk domain names are limited (part of the security mechanism) and we chose OneSuffolk (part of Community Action Suffolk) as our provider as they were already a supplier of other services to us and are known for their support of Parish and Town Councils. The IT support from OneSuffolk was excellent and I recommend them as a supplier.

Cost:  Domain name: £138 every two years. Email addresses: £24 each per year, which includes 10GB of email storage for each account.

Domain Setup:  Domain setup was very quick – new the domain was up and running within 48 hours of providing the name we wanted. It is worth noting that if you are not a principle authority, you have to add -pc or -tc to your Parish/Town name to designate you as a Parish or Town Council and this is not negotiable.

Email Setup:  This was straightforward for anyone who has set up email accounts before and with 15 minutes I personally had it up and running on my laptop, iPad and iPhone; email is also available via a webmail interface which means you can pick up email from any device world-wide. The support materials from OneSuffolk were perfectly adequate, although I did add a few tips of my own regarding port settings for other Councillors. It is worth picking the most IT-literate person on your Council to be the support for the set up of everyone else as some people find this very intimidating to do. 

Issues:  We only had two initial issues: 1) Our website is hosted on a different domain and we did not want to move it (the whole village uses it), so OneSuffolk arranged for the new domain to “auto-forward”, which works seamlessly, 2) Initially every email came with a footer that said “scanned by iomartcloud” and a link to the hosting service which we could not remove. I strenuously objected to this advertising being added to a “paid for” service and OneSuffolk were very quick to amend the system in the background so that this no longer appeared. 

Summary:  I am glad we made the switch – it makes us look and feel more professional I think and I like the security of having control over the Council email accounts. The service is obviously an additional cost that we could all do without (it should obviously be centrally funded) but I would recommend changing before it becomes mandatory which is probably only a matter of time. 

Andrew Lewis
Chair, Walberswick Parish Council

a.lewis@walberswick-pc.gov.uk

One Suffolk

In response to the national desire for Parish Councils to work in a more secure and efficient way, we are delighted to be able to tell you that One Suffolk can now offer .gov.uk domain names to Parish or Town councils. This domain name could then potentially be linked to your website address that you have with, or indeed with any email addresses you may need to provide to your councillors. 

The pricing for the gov.uk domain names is £138 for a 2 year registration and we provide very generous 10GB mailboxes at a discounted rate of £24 per year per mailbox if you order more than 5 email addresses or £30 per year per mailbox if you order less than 5 email addresses. You shouldn’t ever need to worry about running out of space with these 10GB mailboxes!!

The process to get all of this sorted is actually very simple, requires no complex setup and usually takes around 1 week from start to finish. 

To process an order we simply need confirmation of the clerk’s name, address and telephone number and then confirmation of what domain name and email addresses you require. Please note there are strict naming rules around what domain name you can choose so if you are a Parish Council then typically domain names like yourparishcouncil.gov.uk or yourparish-pc.gov.uk will be accepted. We can advise you on this.

We will then handle the rest for you, with the end result being a professional domain name with secure email addresses that you can provide to your staff and councillors, and of course if you have any problems in the process or once everything is all active you can always call on our support via our Ipswich based helpdesk. 

If you have any queries about anything in this article then please don’t hesitate to contact me at  matthew.morling@communityactionsuffolk.org.uk  or at 01473 345321.

Suffolk Cloud

Suffolk.cloud has been recommending the use of .gov.uk domain names and mailboxes for over 2 years and we offer a complete service to help parish clerks to comply with the NALC Guidelines. 

We will: 

  • register and renew a .gov.uk domain name on behalf of the parish council

  • maintain the domain name and keep the contact records updated on instructions from the council

  • point the new domain name to the council's website provider's IP address (whether Suffolk.Cloud or not)

  • set up, renew and delete councillors' and clerk's mailboxes as necessary and provide secure passwords

  • provide telephone support to councillors and clerks setting up the new mailboxes. 


If you would like more information or a quote for this service please either email Ro on info@suffolk.cloud or call 07886 465552.

In 2023, research showed that there were are number of concerns and challenges including:

  • awareness of the need and associated risks

  • cost - especially for smaller parishes and in particular budgeting for ongoing costs

  • perceived complexity

  • knowledge and capability

  • resistance to change

Councils using the SALC internal audit service will notice that auditors make reference to the use of personal email addresses and reference good practice.  Whilst it is not a legal requirement for councils to have a .gov.uk domain the latest version of the Practitioner's Guide (2024) contains stronger language around the merits of moving with a view to encouraging councils to take this step.   See information and links below.

The Practitioner's Guide 2024

This latest version contains stronger language around the merits of moving to a .gov.uk domain.  The aim is to encourage local councils to consider this move.    In particular at 5.2.10 of the Guide stating "all parish, town and community councils are eligible to use, and are advised to use, a .gov.uk domain for their websites and email communications..."

Use this link to visit the SAAA website and the legislation and guidance page to access a copy of the Guide

SALC will be working closely with the Parish Council Domain Helper Service who will be providing us with updates on the number of parishes making enquiries and completing the move.  We will update this area of our website as information is received.  (Last updated April 2024)

Councils may keep their existing website and email providers.