Following recent consultation with residents in Ashfield, a proposal for modernising the way the Council accepts cash payments will be considered at Cabinet on Thursday, 19 January 2017.
The proposal seeks Cabinet approval on modernising cash collection to include more efficient payment channels including direct debit, cash payments via Pay Point, electronic and telephone cash payments. It also seeks approval to develop a timetable for the ending of direct cash collection through Council offices and to set up a project to ensure that residents are fully supported through the process of change.
The recommendations follow the recent budget consultation which showed almost three-quarters of responders supported modernising payments, with 73% of those responding either strongly agreeing or agreeing.
If Cabinet approves this proposal it will mean that the Council can provide a more modern, convenient service for users. The new service would be more convenient, offering more ways to pay at times that suit customers, not having to adhere to specific council office opening times.
The Council has been working towards efficiency savings over the past decade and a range of formerly manual processes have successfully been converted to electronic delivery with no detriment to Council customers.
As a billing authority, the Council collects monies on behalf of the Government, Preceptors and itself - approximately £127m annually - including Council Tax and Non domestic (business) rates and also rental income from its housing tenants. Finding ways to improve this service, maximise efficiency and provide a service that appropriately supports residents in the digital age is paramount. Many residents are now used to organising their personal finances online, rather than in cash transactions. However, the Council recognises that some people will continue to want to pay in cash and this proposal will accommodate for that. This proposal seeks to achieve a net saving of £92k annually.
Portfolio holder for Corporate Services, Cllr. Jackie James said: “We provide a fantastic level of service in our cash offices. However, the current provision provides limited access and choice for our residents and is unsustainable in the face of ongoing cuts to our budgets. Modernising the way the Council takes payments will provide more convenience and choice and the recent consultation showed the majority of people were supportive of the Council doing this.
“People will still be able to pay in cash if that is their preference and they will have more choice of where they can do this, with over 70 pay points across the district. At the same time, this change will provide a much needed cost saving for the council.
“It is essential that we modernise and bring efficiencies wherever possible to ensure we’re delivering real value for money for the Council and the people of Ashfield. If Cabinet approval is given, we will make sure people are supported through this change every step of the way.”
This is one of a number of proposals arising from the recent budget and policy consultation’s range of proposals to help Ashfield meet the financial challenges it faces by improving efficiency as well as generating income from new business ventures to help bridge the funding gap.
At the same time as the Council’s budget and policy review, the recent local government Financial Settlement announcement about further funding cuts for local councils only adds to the huge financial challenges faced and means that the Council has to re-visit its budget.
Commenting on the government announcement, the Leader of the Council, Cheryl Butler said: “Government is now making it even harder for local Councils by making cuts to the new homes bonus scheme, which ADC relies on to fund services. As a Council, we’re proud of the work we’ve been able to do to protect our services by finding savings and making efficiencies but these latest cuts means we now face some very, very difficult decisions. If given Cabinet approval, this proposal will go some way towards improving our services at the same time as making vital savings”.