Best ever collection and payments rates for South and Vale
South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils achieved their best ever rates for council tax and debt collection during 2011/12 as a result of a managed shared finance department in partnership with Capita.
The councils which, alongside Capita, place great emphasis on collecting as much council tax prior to the end of the financial year as possible, have achieved continuous improvement and record year-on-year collection rates, even during the economic downturn.
In the last two years collection rates have risen from 98.33 per cent and 98.44 per cent in 08/09 to 98.64 per cent and 98.71 per cent in South Oxfordshire and the Vale respectively. This has, in part, been achieved thanks to a successful campaign which has resulted in around 80 per cent of households signing up to pay by direct debit, allowing council tax to be collected automatically and thus eliminating many of the hassles associated with other forms of collection.
The two councils have also improved when it comes to recovering other debts, thanks to service managers, Capita and the councils’ shared legal services, culminating in debts over 30 days being reduced from more than £1 million (for both councils) in 2007 to just £100,000 by March 2012.
There has been even more good news, with the accuracy rate for processing benefits rising by 15 per cent for each district, with rates now standing at 96 per cent for South and 94 per cent for Vale; while the speed of processing has also dramatically improved with claims taking just 17 days to complete, half the time that was averaged in 2008.
Both councils are also paying invoices quicker, having placed greater importance on paying suppliers promptly they are now achieving a rate of 99 per cent of all invoices paid within one month. These efforts have been well received by the many local businesses which rely on prompt payment as part of their turnover.
Gary Cooper, of Fabulous Flowers, Abingdon, and Vice–Chairman of Abingdon Chamber of Commerce, said “It is pleasing to know that our local councils prioritise paying their suppliers promptly. We are all going through tough times and it helps when local authorities recognise the cash flow needs of business.”
Mike Jennings, of Chalgrove based business park owners Jennings, said: “As a long time resident, and business owner, I recognise the importance of being paid promptly, and it follows to be responsible enough to pay promptly. The Council are to be congratulated for achieving such good rates of collection and payment, and I hope that this will spur them on to achieve continuously better results in the future.”
With the continued improvements in financial performance South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils signed a three year extension to their existing shared financial services contract with Capita. The new contract will help save £340,000 over the next five years.
Cllr Ann Ducker, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “I am delighted that we are achieving record collection and payment rates. Much improved collection rates help to reduce the amount of time and money we have to spend on chasing debts, which can only benefit those who pay for and receive our services. As a responsible organisation that has a duty to work with and support local businesses we also take great pride in paying our debts as quickly as possible.”
Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “The improvement we have seen in the last couple of years has been really impressive and is a real credit to the councils and Capita. We’ll continue to work together to improve our collection and payment services, and promise to vigorously pursue any non payers to ensure that everyone pays their fair share for services that we provide.”
Giles Reid, sales director, Capita’s local government services business said: “In these times of austerity, making services cost effective is paramount and we are seeing more councils than ever interested in shared service partnerships. From our experience, we know that merging departments such as finance and revenues and benefits, which have a high volume of transactions can prove to be a fast route to making savings.”