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Exemplar Award Winner- Runner-up National Gazetteers Financial Award 2011: London Borough of Harrow

Channel Shift has been a major aim of transformation initiatives for some time, but when 82% of citizens have broadband access to the Internet and a strong desire to transact with the council through this channel the ‘art of the possible’ becomes a day-to-day reality.

In late 2010, the London Borough of Harrow (LBH) introduced the ‘MyHarrow Account’, a secure citizen’s web portal that provides 24/7 access to service information and the means to self-serve.

Citizens, businesses, landlords and tenants have access to a host of services, including council tax and business rates, housing rents, benefits payments, waste collection, parking permits and map based reporting. Over 80 online services, including payments, applications for facilities, licences, discounts and incident reporting are catered for, via a simple log in and unified web interface.

To create the MyHarrow Account there has been a significant amount of back-end systems integration, not least with the council’s own LLPG. Over 14 council service delivery systems now utilise the LLPG as the sole source for addresses. When a citizen logs in to his or her MyHarrow Account, the information pulled from various backend systems is based on that user’s address and the UPRN held in the LLPG. The UPRN acts as the key, enabling the MyHarrow Account to display a single view of council services relevant to the individual user. The LLPG’s location information is also used for map based reporting and viewing nearby planning applications on a map.

Recently launched street-based alerts and notifications, sent by SMS or email, are also facilitated by the LLPG. If road works are due to take place on a particular street, for example, then notifications can be sent automatically to everyone in that street who has a MyHarrow Account and has signed up for the service, courtesy of the UPRN.

The MyHarrow Account is very flexible. Citizens can select exactly what information they wish to see. They can request services, report faults or incidents, sign up for alerts, inform the council of changes in circumstances, view transaction history, and much more. One recent innovation is integration with Electoral Services which enables citizens to change their registration details via the web.

The MyHarrow Account is also open to Harrow’s landlords who can view detailed account information, as well as schedules and correspondence, online. By making this information available online, calls to customer services have reduced significantly as landlords can view payment details for themselves.

Outcomes

The main aim of the project is to facilitate and encourage citizens to self-serve via the web rather than using the telephone or direct visits to Harrow’s Civic Centre. This, in turn, delivered significant efficiencies and savings. By mid-2011, over 7,500 citizens had signed up for the MyHarrow Account. It is also proving popular with those using the service, registering a 96% satisfaction rate through the site’s built- in exit poll.

Internet-based contact with the council has increased by 62% and telephone enquiries have reduced by 30%, with 11% now coming through the MyHarrow Account. Visits to Council offices have also dropped by 17%.

Based on mid-year transaction and web traffic figures, the initial £150K investment in the service will have been recouped in less than a year. Most significant is a reduction in the average cost of transactions by 65%, from £2.33 to £0.77p. LBH’s web site is receiving 74,000 unique web visitors every month and is host to over 4000 transactions. These transactions deliver approximately £720,000 in payments per month which will translate to £8.6m in a year in the web channel alone.

Work does not stop here. There are plans to integrate as many service areas that handle transactions as possible.

Key benefits

• significant ‘Channel Shift’ has taken place with over 75,000 visitors and 4000 online transactions per month

• reductions in telephone and one to one enquiries have already reduced the average cost of transactions by 65% based on internal benchmarking

• using the MyHarrow Account, online transactions in 2011 will exceed £8.5m per annum

• the initial £150K investment has been recouped within the first year through the reduction in transaction costs

• citizens can now request services, receive alerts and carry out the most usual transactions online

• citizens using the MyHarrow Account have secure log in areas to report incidents, request services, receive alerts and carry out most normal transactions online.

View from the authority

“The introduction of a new charging policy for the provision of garden waste collection services was implemented as a savings measure. This required requests for the service to be subject to an eligibility check to ensure residents lived within the area covered by the service and, if eligible, for payment to then be taken. The initial arrangements proved cumbersome and time consuming for residents and offered a poor customer service. An improved garden waste system underpinned by the LLPG was therefore developed. This has provided crucial efficiency savings in a time of budget cuts, and a service to the customer that can be completed online or by front-line staff in one call whereas, previously, it could take up to three days and involved the back-office.”

-Paul Jones Head of Waste Management, Northumberland County Council

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