In this blog, John Jervis of IEG4 looks at the importance of the business community to local government revenues and argues that effective digitisation of services will be not only attractive to business operators, but, will also offer councils new opportunities for revenue generation around improved services.
Business Rates 2020
In 2015, Central Government introduced a change to business rates collection with a five-year transition period. In 2020, councils will be responsible for business rate collection and can retain 100% of the monies they collect. There will be checks and balances between those councils who can collect a surplus over the services they need to provide, but the principle and direction is clear. Central Government wants Local Government to take on more responsibility for local service delivery and to use revenues raised from businesses to help pay for them.
Many Businesses Have a Choice
With remote working a part of life, many businesses have the flexibility to choose their location. Will the quality of local government services and ease of access to them play a role in attracting or losing business customers? For some who can choose, it may well do. Attracting businesses and the increasing revenues they generate should increasingly matter to councils.
Councils who embrace technologies to provide easy and responsive access to their services will be better placed to raise revenues for the use of their services. At the same time, providing access and support to more of these services digitally, will offer the opportunity to provide improved services potentially at a lower cost to serve.
Seamless integration of the service request from the end-user to a back-office administration system, not just within a council but, out to third party service suppliers, offers the chance for automated, ‘no-touch’ customer service across multiple organisations. The more a technology is exploited, the more cost-effective it becomes.
Service Connectivity Offers Revenue Generation Opportunities
As a new generation of digital building blocks fall into place, the range of services which could be served by a direct process from one single access point is increasing. It is important to note that the technology building-blocks don’t have to be just related to office admin systems. Bringing in information from external environments (e.g. the internet of things) offers new opportunities.
IEG4’s OneVu Customer Engagement Platform with its built-in workflow management and open APIs allows third party systems to be accessed – opening up a world of new opportunities. In Cambridgeshire, IEG4 is working alongside three councils and Connected Asset Management Software and Service provider, Yotta, to improve communications around the Waste service provision for the council’s citizens. This includes the ordering of new waste bins, and the reaching out to the in-cab technology in real-time which can advise, seamlessly, as to why a bin has been missed, or, rejected for collection.
Take a small step forward with that current capability and combine it, for example, with technology to weigh commercial bins as they are emptied into the truck, and this can provide immediate insight about an individual businesses’ service consumption.
That granularity of understanding offers authorities a chance to develop different pricing plans for commercial waste collection. Think back to early phone plans, minutes and data usage charges. Those that break their agreed limits are charged for usage at a significantly higher rate. Those who want to pay a higher ‘contract rate’ can buy headroom, yet, will consistently pay more per month, regardless of whether they have used it or not.
Business owners would be able to track their commercial waste consumption via their OneVu Portal, via information extracted straight from the waste management system. Joining up the digital dots further, a council could use GOV.UK Notify to send a text to inform the business customer of an impending weight breach and ask them how they wish to proceed. Integration with another re-usable building block, GOV.UK Pay, would make payment collection easier to achieve.
We may not be quite there yet, but, the building blocks and technical feasibility to think differently and imagine new business models are in place. You use it, you pay for it.
Digitising Taxi Licence Applications
Another important business community are private-hire Taxi Drivers. The process of taxi licence application, revenue collection, issuing licenses and setting reminders has been digitally transformed. OneVu provides a 24/7 convenient access channel for a group of users, many of whom through their working shift patterns may have more nocturnal profiles than the rest of us.
Linking OneVu’s workflow engine to licensing systems enables applications to be made on-line and payments collected at the start of the process. This can improve council cash flow and provides the incentive for the applicants to complete the application process within a tighter time frame.
As policy allows and develops to reflect an increasing acceptance of digital proof points, supporting evidence can be uploaded online. This reduces the need for the driver to visit the council office with their documents or to post-in required paperwork. Paperwork which the council would then need to link to an application, scan and validate, before returning to the applicant with considerable cost in time and money.
One View of Council Service Usage for Business Users of Different Shapes and Sizes.
Whether you are a one-man-band private-hire driver, a business owner with multiple commercial outlets within a council, or a landlord with a portfolio of rental properties, you will want to see a view of the services which your business uses.
There is also the possibility that you would also be a citizen and user of council services outside of work. If you were a house owner and have a flat which you have decided to rent out, having to maintain three separate logins to see services for each would surely discourage digital adoption.
The OneVu Customer Engagement Platform provides citizens with a single, configurable access point to both business and personal council services. I say, ‘configurable’, in that OneVu allows the end-user to access different views of the services which are relevant to them.
For a small business owner, this may provide the opportunity to see both business rates and services used by their business, as well as, his or her personal domestic council tax situation, or a local directory of services, under the same, single, access point.
For larger businesses, an authorised user could enquire about the council services the company and its premises requires, such as, trade waste usage, environmental health matters and business rates, in a single portal for that business.
The larger business operator, as a resident of the council, could look at his or her residential services too, with a single sign on, if they so wished.
Epilogue - OneVu Sub-Portals Where Next?
The title of this blog, ‘Businesses Matter’ has focussed, so far, on external businesses as ‘consumers’ of council services and, how OneVu provides them with a single access point to enquire about any council service.
This is possible because the OneVu Customer Engagement Platform, its workflow management system Open Process and its APIs are agnostic about the services and information that can be presented through them. They can be adapted, frequently by council users, to present information from any system.
For councils, as businesses themselves, and ‘owner/users’ of OneVu, the platform offers interesting opportunities to increase the value in which the council can create by expanding services offered through the platform.
Combine this ability with the concept of different sub-portal views specific to user groups, both external and internal, and OneVu could be enabled to be used as an internal system to support council workers. For example, OneVu could allow council workers to access information on internal policies and to see personalised HR information.
Undoubtedly for councils - businesses will matter. We have designed OneVu’s architecture to allow councils to improve services for their citizens and business operators first and foremost. But, in so doing, we have created a platform which allows so much more to be exploited.