For many small local authorities, to realise the economies of scale would be an advantage, but few are in a position to take that step. With the support of Capita Software Services, the district councils of Breckland and Forest Heath have created a unique venture - The Anglia Revenues and Benefits Partnership - to cut costs and improve performance.
Using Council Tax, Benefits, Income Management and Counter Receipting modules from Capita since 1997, Breckland DC had a modern IT system. In contrast, Forest Heath DC relied on an old ICL-based mainframe for business rates, housing benefits and Council Tax. It also faced withdrawal of IT support. Quite independently, both authorities undertook a best value review of their revenues and benefits services.
A decision was soon reached to work together. While this would help cost cutting, managers further believed that a larger service was ideal for variable workloads. There was a mutual recognition that sharing IT provision, including new developments for eGovernment, would be advantageous too.
Working together is more than just sharing IT. There are joint committees, common management and new processes to improve customer service. Leaflets, letters and forms have been unified along with desktops, now Microsoft Windows 2000 with Office software.
Government funding has now been tapped for new projects. Using Capita Direct, eGovernment is opening up access for customers wishing to manage their accounts and claims online.
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