Step into Spring with automation

It seems a while ago but in the Chancellor’s Spring Budget 2024, there was a section focused on public service productivity, with services tasked to become more digitally inclusive, to explore artificial intelligence (AI) and to use automation to improve productivity. Although local authorities were not specifically mentioned in that part of the Budget, Ministers this week wrote to Chief Executives formally asking councils to produce productivity plans. Amidst some understandable groans, it remains the case that every forecaster is predicting continued pressure on council finances so, to many of us, this seems like déjà vu. Whoever forms a government after the next election will be looking to productivity as a means to increase capacity. As experts in Revenues and Benefits automation, we have a good understanding of how it improves productivity and increases capacity.

But automation is not just about improving productivity. It also helps to transform resident experience. A resident’s experience is not solely based on how easy it was to submit a service change or request, but also by what happens afterwards. Our customers tell us without exception that automation enhances job satisfaction as their professional staff, relieved of mundane, repetitive tasks, move up the value chain to engage in more challenging activities, which increases their sense of achievement and contribution. These three outcomes – improved productivity, enhanced resident experience and higher staff morale – walk hand in hand.

“Our successful partnership with Govtech has enabled the Service to respond positively to our challenges whilst improving the level of service we provide to our citizens.”
Melissa Mallaby, Service Manager, Wakefield Council


AT the busiest time of year...

Annual Billing, Year-end and rollover have re-established themselves as the busiest of times for Govtech’s customers. As new Council Tax bills are issued, the volume of Direct Debit instructions, Single Occupier Discount applications (and cancellations) and, interestingly, Moves can triple. It’s always a source of amusement to realise just how many 10-month cycle direct debit payers are prompted by a new Council Tax bill to tell the council that they moved home 6-8 weeks ago.

In March alone, Govtech’s webCAPTURE digital process automation service fully automated the creation of over 48,000 new Direct Debit instructions. At around 5 minutes each to complete and archive manually, this saved our customers a cumulative 573 days of processing time during their busiest month. And, since webCAPTURE issues the statutory acknowledgement of DDs by email rather than by post, it also saved upwards of £50,000 in printing and postage costs. 

We have also just released the latest quarterly Revenues automation reports for webCAPTURE customers. In the period Jan-Mar 2024, webCAPTURE handled 136,968 Council Tax changes of address and landlord-notified tenancy changes – about 10,000 per week. Without automation, that’s 25 person years of work. Which means it’s 100 FTE to complete that work in 3-months.

Moves are the most complex transactions to automate from end-to-end (i.e. without officer intervention). With webCAPTURE, the lowest end-to-end automation rate attained for Moves was 74%. But hats off to Kirklees Council, Dudley Council, Salford Council and South Ayrshire Council for achieving a new gold standard of 90%! The average automation rate for Moves across all councils was 80%. So webCAPTURE automation meant that 80 experienced Revenues officers in Govtech customers were able to focus on something else during the busiest period of the year.

In each instance, liability was correctly checked and updated, and bills generated without intervention. No backlogs, no delays (and no overtime) with residents experiencing the same prompt level of service they have come to expect from service providers.

What's coming?

In the next 12 months, we’ll go much further to help councils embed and exploit automation to improve productivity, realise savings and enhance resident experiences.

On paperless billing, we’ll be helping councils to increase the number of residents opting for e-Bills by making the process much simpler and less fussy. We’re targeting those people the council never hears from – typically, they get a Council Tax bill once a year and only look at it to check the instalment amount. Persuading this cohort to register for a My Account is a lost cause. So, watch this space because a much simpler alternative is coming. Collectively, our customers could save over £3m pa in printing and postage costs just by getting residents their council rarely hears from to opt-in to paperless billing. And the e-Bills can be stored in a digital wallet on a phone, ready for the next proof of residency check at the local recycling depot.

On Council Tax Reduction, we’ll continue to support Councils which run banded schemes and enable those who wish to adopt a discount-based CTR scheme to have new working age claims and changes fully automated via the daily feed of DWP UC Notifications. No more loading that data feed into the Benefits system and manually adjusting incomes. 

We’ll also be working with councils to design automation to simplify, support and improve processes for handling HMRC data, a game-changing addition to the Recovery toolkit. And, as always, we'll be listening hard to other customer ideas for improving systems, automating processes, and enhancing resident experiences.


Isn’t it time you started your automation journey?

Choose automation to align with your goals and invest in digital transformation. 

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