Increasing online payment options to be discussed by Cabinet

Council / 19 Sep 2017

Cabinet will meet on 25 September 2017 to review the outcomes of three public consultations the council launched in July, and to consider proposals to offer more online, digital and automated payment options for council services to residents and businesses.

Firstly, Cabinet will decide whether to allow residents to pay for residential parking permits online through the council website, to replace the paper-based system currently in place.

This consultation has received the most responses so far with some residents expressing concerns that doing so would increase the cost of parking for residents and visitors.

The council has replied to all respondents of the consultation. Many of the concerns have been resolved by explaining in more detail how the new scheme will work and how best to use the various permits. If Cabinet agrees to an online process then there would be a transition period to allow residents to move over to the new online system.

The proposals being presented to the Cabinet recognise that the council must continue to engage with and support vulnerable customers to ensure that they can access and pay for services through alternative methods and are not disadvantaged by any changes proposed.

Secondly, Cabinet will also discuss a recommendation to streamline the process for taxi licensing by moving most of the paper-based aspects of the application system to an online system. The majority of respondents to date have agreed the council should change taxi licensing to an online system.

Finally, Cabinet will debate a proposal to update the council Payments Strategy to offer more online, digital and automated payment options for the majority of council services, and a proposal to close the council cash office by March 2018.

A total of 27 responses have so far been received for the Payments Strategy consultation, which was relatively small despite the consultation being widely advertised, including at the council cash office. Therefore less than 20 residents have expressed concerns that the closure of the council cash office might deny them the opportunity to make payments in person and using cash.

Moreover, the ability to make cash payments will still be available to residents even if the council cash office is closed. There are more than 100 locations throughout the city (i.e. banks, Payzones and Post Offices) that will continue to accept payments for council services by cheque, cash and credit/debit cards.

Councillor David Seaton, cabinet member for resources at the city council, said: “The last decade has seen a huge change in the way the public accesses services from retailers, banks and utility companies. It is important that the city council continues to serve our residents in the most convenient, accessible and cost effective ways possible.

“While there are many benefits to transforming and updating our digital services, the council is also aware that it has a duty to ensure that our more vulnerable residents are still able to easily access our services and interact with the council.

“Making our services available through digital and automated channels allows residents to interact and transact with the council at times and places that are convenient for them, and reduces the costs to taxpayers of administering those services. Implementing this new Payments Strategy is also expected to save taxpayers in the region of £100,000 per year.”

The council has consulted with many support organisations in order to put together a Customer Engagement Strategy that provides support for those who face challenges due to disabilities or digital exclusion, including plans to offer training, advice and access to computer equipment and the internet, at local libraries, community hubs and other locations across the city.

The development of the proposals has involved advice and input from many local support organisations - including Disability Peterborough, Family Voice, The Carers' Trust Cambridgeshire, CPSL Mind, Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services - as well as experts in the field of Adult Social Care.

The consultations remain open until tomorrow (Wednesday 20 September).