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Last year I wrote a blog entitled 100 ways to cut the Council Tax without cutting key services.  It's probably time time I updated it adding another hundred. But to be getting on with there are hundreds of ideas on this blog by Jon Harvey. He wrote to councils asking for small, specific examples of how they had saved money. Often the examples produced savings hat weren't all that small are were achieved by changes which also enhanced the service on offer. Some of those published are anonymous, others name the council.

Here are 15 examples that caught my eye:

1. CRB checks.

From North Hertfordshire District Council

"We make applications for CRB checks to our Council for Voluntary Service who can carry these out at a lower cost than statutory agencies such as the police, but the fees they receive, a small profit for them, pays for their employee to work every afternoon as well helping the voluntary sector."

2. Mobile working.

Also from North Herrtfordshire:

"We have implemented mobile working, sending benefits assessors etc to the homes of our customers, meaning it removes the need for them to travel, means documents can be checked in the home rather than sent or brought to the office and officers’ reports are sent back to base electronically. That has already saved us around £70,000, no small amount."

3. Mystery shopping

An arrangement has been made with a neighbouring authority to mystery shop the other authority’s services. Previously both authorities employed external companies to carry out this service but by now providing this service for each other saves the cost of employing the external company.

4. Double sided printing.

From West Berkshire Council staff suggestion scheme.

ICT were already on the case and "are assessing usage of all printers across WBC. Duplex printers are already in place in some services – it was agreed that the duplex option would be set to mandatory on these to encourage proper use or the printers and save paper. Once the assessment is complete, the services with largest demand for printing, such as electoral services, benefits and exchequer etc will be provided with duplex printers first. Also ICT will be replacing old equipment when it breaks with duplex printers where possible.

5. Chipping felled tree branches and shrubs for footpaths & mulch

6. Catering administration

From New Forest District Council:

"Savings of £16k resulted from the deletion of a catering administration post, with duties being absorbed by other employees. The element of the saving relating to the Council’s staff canteen (pantry) was £3380 with the balance relating to other establishments, principally leisure facilities."

7. Joint procurement.

Also from the New Forest

"Copier Paper/Furniture – These savings resulted through entering into joint procurement arrangements with Test Valley Borough Council for both photocopier paper and furniture.

8. Cutting payments by cheque.

"Traditionally the Council paid its suppliers by cheque. Taking into account the time spent printing and enveloping each payment, the cost of the cheque stationery and the envelope in which it was posted, as well as the actual price of the stamp and the fee from the bank, every time we paid a supplier it would cost roughly 53p.

What we've now done is moved to BACS as our default method of payment. In the past there were a couple of things which put us off doing this. Firstly, there would be a need to contact our suppliers to find out their bank details and convince them that electronic payment was the way forward. Secondly, in order to minimise subsequent queries, we thought that we would still post remittance advices to the suppliers telling them that payment was on its way – this, of course, would negate some of the saving.

However, times have moved on and most suppliers now include bank details on their invoices and request electronic payment. Very often email addresses are printed on invoices as well. All this meant that we could readily move over to BACS payment for very many of our suppliers, with remittance advices sent by email. Obtaining the missing information from other suppliers was simply a question of making a few phone calls. We are now making 83% of our supplier payments by BACS and emailing the remittances. In a year we make around 11,000 payments, so we will now be saving around £4,000 annually"

9. One phone bill.

From Winchester City Council:

"The idea: To work with BT to replace the many bills that the Council receives monthly and quarterly for each of its telephones with one single monthly itemised bill supplied either by email or on disk.

Results: Reduction in the amount of time taken in administering the payments for each telephone bill and the cost of making the making payment. Reduction in the amount of paper used for the bills. Estimated annual saving of about £1,500."

10. TFT screens.

From Amber Valley Borough Council.

Introduction of TFT screens – reduction in power usage £1,230 per annum.

11. Bite sized training

From Windsor and Maidenhead

Instead of having external training we now hold internal bite size training events for staff, that are filmed and put on the internal internet site so that staff can view at any time."

12. The ‘Can you look after a plant?’ Scheme

To save money staff were asked to volunteer to look after the plants in their office by watering them every two weeks. This was introduced in all the offices of the Civic Centre (which is the council’s central offices).

In offices where volunteers were not found the plants would be relocated to offices where there were volunteers. Once volunteers were in place the contract with the external contractor who used to water the plants will be terminated.

13. Rationalising the subscriptions

From Guildford Borough Council

 The council recently reviewed its various subscriptions to magazines, newspapers and periodicals. This has saved around £10,000 through rationalisation and increased use of the internet.

14. Provision of website payment facility for Penalty Charge Notices

The website payment facility for parking penalty payments was switched to the system provided by the company supplying the parking enforcement administration system. The new system provides a more reliable and effective system for online payments than the older in-house system which proved to be problematic.

The improved quality of service has led to an increase in the number of payments processed electronically (which provides savings on the more costly processing of cash or cheque payments) and allowed staff to concentrate on other duties as opposed to processing payments, calls and enquiries.

15. Under used community rooms – now used!

From North Warwickshire District Council

 Under used community rooms – each of our blocks of flats had been allocated a community room for social purposes but it was clear from monitoring the usage patterns that a few were literally never used. After consultation with the residents, some have been returned as single bedroom flats, generating income for the council of approximately £2.5k a year and also reducing the housing waiting list. So far we have converted three back to flats and are looking to convert a further two.

36 comments for: 15 more ways to cut Council Tax without cutting key services

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