Local Government’s challenge
Achieving a balanced budget is a challenge that Councils face every year, but with continuing pressures, this is becoming increasingly difficult. And whilst ‘Medium Term Financial Plans’ in Local Government will be expecting council departments to deliver savings, they will also often reference a corporate and political will to deliver high performing services.
Wakefield Council’s Revenues & Benefits service, with a Council Tax base of 155,000 properties and a caseload of 29,000 Housing Benefit claimants, in turn, looked to Govtech to help deliver these objectives.
Assessing the options, choosing the right partner
Wakefield Council’s Revenues & Benefits service wanted to reduce operating costs but also wanted to provide a better service: a 24/7 and mobile friendly service, where customers could transact with the council in their own time and through the channel of their choice. They also recognised that some of their manual processes could be automated.
Anthony Derbyshire, Business Development Manager at Wakefield Council
“We were keen to explore how we could reduce the amount of time spent on manual data input, so we worked up a business case on how channel shift and automation could help us achieve that. We looked at various suppliers, and whilst other products were cheaper on paper, we settled on Govtech’s webCAPTURE and eCAPTURE services, because they guaranteed an outcome.”
When asked what Govtech were like to deal with during the implementation, Anthony’s answer is simple: “As a project that involved a third-party provider, it was the easiest project I’ve been involved with in over 20 years of local government project management. It’s obvious that Govtech’s people have the experience across local government and communication was excellent throughout implementation. Project delivery was spot on!”
Having created the case for change based on outcomes, Wakefield’s team have diligently measured these. In Benefits, the return was immediate. Previously the online form created a .pdf which meant manual entry of data for staff, but with Govtech’s eCAPTURE service, the time saved by eliminating this work on 12,000 forms is between 3,000 and 4,000 hours per annum.
With webCAPTURE, by enabling customers to carry out tasks like change of address or single person discount online, there are similar time savings being achieved. In Wakefield’s first year of using Govtech the cashable savings have been calculated at £130,000, with this expected to rise in year 2 as more customers choose to serve themselves online, therefore further reducing telephone contact and footfall into customer contact centres.
Where Wakefield have seen the biggest gains though, is through refocussing resources onto Council Tax collection. With staff no longer needing to do as much manual data entry, they have seen a significant shift in recovery performance.
Anthony explains: “As at September 2017 (when we went live with webCAPTURE), our in-year recovery was 0.25% down on the same time in 2016. However, by the end of March 2018, our in-year recovery was 0.25% UP on the previous year. The overall shift of 0.5% is worth around £750,000”.
Building on success
Wakefield aren’t being complacent though and are continuing to drive the take-up of online forms. They have plans to understand the customer journey in more detail, are working on eliminating avoidable contact, and in turn provide a better customer experience whilst continuing to deliver savings.