The number of websites run by the UK government has dropped to 444, under a quarter of the peak total under the Labour administration’s web boom, a Central Government websites report has said.

The precise peak number of sites developed for government departments is unknown – that fact alone resulted in a rebuke from the Public Accounts Committee in 2008 – but could have reached as many as 2,500 by 2006.

The new report identifies 1,526 that have definitely been closed in the three years since the Labour administration finally agreed to rationalise what had turned into an incoherent web bloat.

Another 243 of the remaining 444 are to close with only 134 allowed to remain open pending the development of a single domain for government.

Judging from the still-considerable £149 million cost of the current website presence, the 1,500 reduction in sites has chopped easy waste, including many domains and sites that were barely used.

Many will blame a lack of planning control under Labour but it was this administration that belatedly realised as early as 2006 that site numbers needed to be heavily trimmed.

The most visited websites are the Ministry of Defence, direct.gov.co.uk (used to fill in online tax returns), and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.