Capita has worked in partnership with London Borough of Bexley since 1996, delivering a range of revenues, benefits and customer services on behalf of the Council. Over the past few years Capita’s revenues team has been working with the Council to implement new online technology and initiatives to help improve the customer experience and maximise revenue through better debt collection.
In the 2015/16 financial year we have collected the highest ever council tax and business rates revenue for the Council. The team collected council tax from 96.70% of eligible residents and 98.52% of organisations paid their business rates.
“To see continued improvements year-on-year since we have worked with Capita is really pleasing. These are the best ever collection rates which supports us in becoming more financially sustainable and driving our wider ambition of making Bexley the easiest Council to pay in the country” Mark Underwood, Head of Exchequer Services, London Borough of Bexley
Capita has invested over £6.5m in the development of new technology which means residents are opting to use digital channels to pay and receive information about their council tax, which makes us more in tune with the way they live their lives. We implemented an online portal on the Bexley Council website, giving residents the option to create an account, pay their council tax and business rates, and also opt for more automated channels such as electronic billing and direct debit payments.
We’ve also introduced a text messaging service which sends residents or businesses handy reminders to pay their bill, right through to pre-summons and pre-enforcement stage communications.
All of the Council’s debt collection and debt recovery processes have been reviewed and streamlined in order to make services as efficient as possible. To encourage more people to use online channels rather than more expensive paper based processes, we removed the paper slips from bills and encouraged the online or telephone options. The Council’s last remaining Cash Office was also closed. This helps the Council save money and keep future Council Tax levels down. It costs the Council around 50p more for each transaction it processes by cash or cheque, so the uptake of Direct Debits saves money in administration, and also through reduced collection costs.
We also run ongoing communications to ensure residents – particularly high service users – are aware and encouraged to use online channels. For example, we carried out a promotion about the flexible new payment dates for Direct Debits which has helped drive collection rates and reduce face to face contact and written correspondence. Innovation using behavioural science, nudge theory, has also been utilised to change the format of the bills to drive customer behaviour towards the Bexley website and online portal.
Reviews and improvements have also been undertaken on the council tax pages of Bexley’s website. Now, more online facilities are clearly available, such as setting up a Direct Debit, creating accounts and opting for e-billings. Customers can more easily report a change of address, apply for refunds, make payment arrangements and apply for discounts and exemptions.
Since these improvements were made the number of residents that have registered for an account has increased by 56% compared to last year and nearly 75% of Direct Debit sign-ups are now made online. This success has been recognised by industry experts, SOCITIM in its ‘Better Connected’ survey, where the council tax pages of the website were awarded the maximum ‘four star’ rating.
"The collection rates for council tax and business rates are the best they have ever been since we began working with Bexley. One of the reasons for this is that we are offering residents more choice and ease when it comes to paying their bills. Not only is this enhancing the user experience but means Bexley are benefitting from a better performing service and higher revenue collections that support the delivery of local services.” Mark Chapman, Business Services Director, Capita Local Public Services
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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
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