Our Approach to Digitisation: Progress Report
- Meeting of Strategic (Overview and Scrutiny) Committee, Thursday, 22nd November, 2018 6.00 pm (Item 24.)
The Committee received a report updating them on work undertaken to deliver channel shift and digitisation and outlining the progress that has been made in delivering the five ‘strategic’ projects.
It was reported that online forms had minimised demand on Connects staff, although the introduction of new services like garden waste had increased the number of calls, and this had allowed for better customer service as there was now capacity to deal with more queries including more benefits issues at that first point of contact.
Members asked why the use of Direct Debit had not been incorporated within the garden waste subscription processes in the first two years of operation.
It was reported that in developing the initial administration processes to go live with garden waste in 2017, the potential for allowing payment by direct debit was reviewed.
It was noted that whilst the council used direct debit facilities to collect council tax and rates and other payments, there was little scope to extend existing direct debit processes/systems to allow for the collection of garden waste subscriptions. Existing systems rely on signed paper forms which could not integrate with the garden waste administration processes.
It was noted that the number of direct debit payments was likely to be relatively small and relatively infrequent. The garden waste subscription is paid annually (unlike council tax which is collected monthly) and the value is small at £36/£72 etc. Furthermore, It was also unclear how many additional customers would sign up for a subscription because of the ability to pay by direct debit.
Further work had been undertaken to assess the cost and return of incorporating direct debits into the processes but the business case was insufficiently persuasive to progress at the time. There were concerns that significant investment was required to design, develop and implement a sign-up and collection process that was integrated with the administrative process – without any prospect that it would result in more customers or lower administration costs.
It was asked if the cost could now be investigated again and it was reported that this review was already underway.
When asked, it was noted that data was currently being collected to how many new signups there had been for the 2019 green waste subscription.
The Committee discussed the implications of channel shift and still providing a service to older and vulnerable people who may struggle with digital communications. It was felt that the only way to maximise efficiencies was to turn off analogue systems completely however this could in turn alienate some demographics. The Committee noted that either way brought risk however further options to help these older and vulnerable people could be explored including using charities to help fill in forms, develop easy to use applications, explore simple technology like text messaging and encourage other family members to support where possible. It was also agreed that some other services where there were f few vulnerable users could be offered online only including taxi licensing.
When asked, it was confirmed that specifications for systems were written with the requirement that they must integrate with other systems in use or approved. It was noted that this approach was easier now that the ICT service had been insourced and there had been a good level of engagement with relevant services.
The Innovation Task Group was discussed and it was agreed to place Councillor Smith as Chairman to replace Councillor A. Yeates who had moved from the Committee. It was felt that a technical expert could be advantageous in aiding the group as to what was possible and available and it was noted that advice of that nature was provided by suppliers and Councillor Smith had a background in the field that would be beneficial.
The Committee thanked the Officers for their work so far in delivering digitisation.
RESOLVED: 1) That the report be noted;
2) That the need for ongoing input from the Innovation Task Group to test new emerging customer facing online processes be noted; and
3) That the membership of the Innovation Task Group be amended to include Councillor Smith as Chairman and delete Councillor A. Yeates.