In 2011, the London Borough of Southwark recorded one of the lowest collection rates for council tax across the country. Given the huge budgetary pressures local authorities were, and still are, facing, the council needed to improve the quality of its housing benefit processing systems as well as maximise the efficiency of its council tax and business rates collection services. The service had been provided by an external supplier for the previous 13 years. The council took the decision to bring its revenues and benefits services back inhouse, the focus being to build a sustainable model for one of London’s largest and most complex boroughs, which would deliver significant improvements. The move to bring services in-house meant filling more than 100 posts. Given the uncertainties over the impact of welfare reform, and continued debate over how revenues and benefits would be delivered in the future, the council recognised that filling these jobs from day one of the new in-house system would not be viable. At the time, Southwark was facing a 24% rise in incoming work and a 33% increase in customer contact. The council needed to find a model that would allow it to accurately forecast demand, and as a result allocate appropriate levels of resource to key projects, such as single person discount and empty property reviews. In today’s economic climate, local authorities around the country are tackling twin challenges: uncertainty over the future delivery of welfare, coupled with increasing demand on their services.
To help meet this challenge, the council formed a flexible resilience partnership model with Capita Local Public Services. Capita’s expert and experienced shared partnership centre provides the resilience operation, with a dedicated pool of around 2,000 fully-trained employees helping to provide flexible access to resources as and when the workload requires it. The resource requirements are agreed with Southwark according to market trends and caseloads, which can be increased during peaks in demand, such as during legislative changes.
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Giving people the chance to make online payments, set up their housing benefit claims and Direct Debit orders from the website, and to inform us of any changes in their circumstances has helped our tax collection rate rise significantly. We are looking forward to continuing to improve outcomes and help residents by working with Capita over the coming years.Cllr Teresa O’Neill Council Leader, London Borough of Bexley
The whole process was managed quickly and efficiently and we had a service manager from Capita to oversee the entire review. The review was completed within three months, meaning the discount for non-eligible residents could be removed swiftly. This allowed us sufficient time to collect the additional council tax.Steve Hendon, Income Collection Manager, Newport City Council
West Sussex had made good progress in making changes in our back office but the partnership with Capita has enabled us to really make the savings we needed to. With Capita’s support, we now have a more streamlined and resilient administration function which was achieved without any impact on service delivery - a great example of partnership working.Head of Business Change, West Sussex County Council