Rushmoor Borough Council would like more residents to pay for services online rather than face-to-face but concerns have been raised about access to computers
In a bid to save money, Rushmoor Borough Council is encouraging residents to pay for their services online.
Each payment which is made face-to-face to the council by cash can cost more than £4.50 to process, owing to staff costs, however, a direct debit transaction costs around three pence.
Last year the council received more than 350,000 payments from residents, including council tax transactions and room hire charges, with each payment costing it an average of 21 pence.
The council plans to introduce a ‘channel shift’, where the majority of its services will be paid for online, rather than by post or in person, to help cut down on costs and make it easier and more convenient for customers to make payments.
At a meeting of the council’s corporate services policy and review panel, Ian Harrison, head of customer services, said: “Over time we aim to continue to improve the services that we provide to residents, but in a sustainable way, so we can continue to do what we do at the moment, and more, but encourage residents to deal with us in a way that’s going to get things done most effectively.
"For us it’s all about making it easier and more convenient for customers to access services.”
The council plans to introduce the channel shift within the next six months and will monitor how successful the change is by tracking how many customers use the services. Staff would not be cut right away but reviewed as the project progresses.
Between the financial year 2008/09 and 2012/13 there have been 1,503,256 council tax payments made to the council, which cost them £411,702.03 to process.
The council also spends around £10 million on staff costs, and between £80,000 to £100,000 on postage costs, each year.
Moving services online could save it around £250,000 each year as it will need fewer staff to provide, support and manage customer responses and queries. The move will also reduce outbound mail by at least 10%, saving £10,000 a year.
Councillor Gareth Lyon supported the idea and said he felt ‘very strongly’ about moving away from using cash payments.
However, Cllr Barbara Hurst said that some residents might struggle: “Some people do have access to computers at the library and perhaps they would adapt to these methods if they were given the right help and support.
“I think it’s inevitable really, we have to move on with the times, but it is unfortunate that there are some individuals that will struggle.”