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Making it easier to pay Council bills

Issued: 10 Jun 2010

The Highland Council is to consult with the public over plans to extend the number of ways the public can pay Council bills, such as Council Tax, Non-Domestic Rates and rent.

A bonus for the Council is that it can save at least £400,000 per year through changing the way it collects payments.

The aim is to move away from cash or cheque payments for routine transactions at Service Points or the Cash Office at Council HQ in Inverness and increase the scope for customers to pay over the telephone and at Pay Points and Post Offices.

A report to the Resources Committee highlighted that customer trends indicate that attitudes towards how individuals wish to pay Council bills are changing. Eager to grasp the opportunities of technology, the Council wishes to not only achieve efficiency savings but shape services that are more convenient and flexible for customers. Staff time could be freed from handling cash transactions to focus on dealing most effectively with complex people-centred issues.

It is proposed to:

  • Upgrade current telephone systems;
  • Provide an automated telephone system;
  • Procure pay point facilities;
  • Issue "pay point" cards to existing and new customers; and
  • Introduce new bar coding of invoices.

The aim is to move from the current arrangements for payment of Council Tax, rents and debtors invoices as soon as practicable, once a consultation has taken place and all necessary systems are in place to facilitate the changes. Alternative arrangements for other payments will be introduced incrementally thereafter.

It is estimated that up to 390,000 transactions could be made through Pay Point facilities if counter cash and cheque payments are withdrawn and there is no change in take up of direct debit. Direct debit is still encouraged because it remains the lowest cost payment method. A future report will set out the implications for staff, and a more detailed financial assessment.

The Council is to hold meetings with trade unions and staff and consult with Community Councils and council house tenants to discuss the proposed changes.

Councillor Carolyn Wilson, Chairman of the Resources Committee, said: "This is good for the council. We are trying to make changes to our payment systems which will not only make it easier for the public to pay the council but will make the council more efficient. We will be consulting widely before taking our plans forward."

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme