Bobby Mulheir gave a
presentation on access to Council services.
Council’s website had met the AA accessibility standard and
was tested by The Shaw Trust who were able to advise if something
was not working and suggest a fix. Key
aspects of digital access included:
- The website was
mobile friendly and would automatically re-format, as would the
embedded forms, dependent upon what device was being used to access
- The website was
accessible to those using assistive technology.
- Once a user had
created an account, their information was stored and would populate
into other forms.
- Householders were
able to view their Council Tax account online.
- An easy-read website
had been created enabling users to click on the imagery or
vocabulary of their desired service.
- The ‘Help
Yourself’ website included a Wellbeing Planner which was
aimed at helping those with additional needs.
‘Listen’ tool had the ability to adjust the volume and
stop/start and users could read the text alongside listening to the
voice. The voice was computer generated
but the Group were advised that it was quite good in terms of
replicating the human voice.
- The e+ card could be
used for proof of age, as a bus pass as well as for library and
- Users could take part
in a live web-chat with a customer services advisor if they ran
into difficulties and doing so would not mean they had to abandon
the page they were on.
The widely publicised contact
centre number – 01344 352000 – received hundreds of
calls each day and staff had been trained to deal with callers with
autism, sensory needs and dementia.
E-mail contact had also proved popular with regard to issuing
reminders for things which were due or overdue and had proved more
effective than using post. Text
messages were also used for overdue payments which had resulted in
less people being issued with a Court summons for non-payment of
Council Tax, for example.
Payments to the Council could
be facilitated by DD, online and pre-paid cards. Work was being undertaken to facilitate payment
being made via chip and pin and contactless in the near
The use of social media –
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – had increased and allowed
customer services staff to monitor traffic and the reasons for
using those platforms as well as respond to any issues
In order to increase digital
inclusion for those starting at the beginning of using a
computer/device and accessing the internet, free courses were being
held in libraries and the Open Learning Centre. The courses included basic computer skills, how to
browse the web, sending an e-mail and online safety. The Group were informed that the Good Things
Foundation and Silva Homes were also involved in helping those
needing to learn basic digital skills.
Self-service kiosks in
libraries – which were felt to be easier to navigate than
supermarket self-serve terminals – could also be used for
paying fines. In the future it was
intended that library users would be trained to access their
library when it was unmanned – this was already underway in
Binfield with 50 registered users and 40 already using the
facility. The Group were advised that
the self-service kiosks used bar codes and had proved very reliable
and could be used to return up to 10 books at a time. Birch Hill and Sandhurst libraries were moving
towards extended opening hours and Harmans Water was due to go
The Time Square customer
service area had undergone improvements, including:
- The removal of
physical barriers to provide more open space and more turning space
for those using wheelchairs and scooters.
computers which could be used by those with no mouse or keyboard
skills. The next step could include
voice-activated computers that responded to users in the same way
as Alexa or Siri, which would be particularly useful for those with
- Telephones were
available for customers to make internal calls to other departments
- Three meeting rooms
were available for confidential contact and 2 areas had been
screened off to afford some privacy but also allow for staff to be
seen by their colleagues.
Following questions and
discussion the following points were noted:
- Customer service
staff would not know if someone contacting the Council had a mental
health condition, for example, unless that person told the staff
member. If that was the case, the staff
member may make a note of it for future reference.
- For security
purposes, biometric voice recognition would be used so that the
voice had to be recognised first before proceeding to the login
stage. This would prevent anyone
attempting to impersonate someone else.
- The question of
security and ethics would be looked into and worked through before
voice recognition was introduced.
- It was noted that in
the past, simply removing your name from the electoral roll
afforded privacy whereas now supermarket loyalty cards, e+ cards
and contactless payment cards left behind a footprint of an
individual’s movements. This made
information gathering easier and could lead to identity
- Data suggested that
most customers did want the technology available for them to be
able to create accounts and access services easily and the next
step may be that citizens held their own personal data and gave
public services and other institutions the ability to
view/permission to share their information.
- In the meantime, only
necessary information was asked for and customers were told what
their information was used for and how it was stored. Customers could request at any time to have any
information held about them removed from the Council’s
- Staff had to be
trusted and any data breaches would be dealt with; all information
security training was undertaken by all staff
- The majority of
information stored about individuals was not linked to other
members of their family or household except in the case of those
living at the same address for Council Tax purposes and for
Most people did not use cheques
anymore to make payments and the use of this method of payment was
being phased out. This was due to the
fact that there was no longer a cheque guarantee card so the cheque
could bounce leading to a delay in revenue receipt, as well as the
high cost of processing cheque payments. Payments made by credit or debit card could be
received immediately or rejected immediately, reducing the lengthy
and expensive process of chasing people for monies owed.