Back to the floor for Hackney s Deputy Mayor

IT was back to the floor for Hackney’s Deputy Mayor, who spent a morning taking calls from residents with Council Tax queries.

Cllr Jamie Carswell on 13 May joined the Council Tax Collection Team, which receives between 500 and 550 telephone enquiries a day, while staff also provide a counter service at their premises in Mare Street, central Hackney.

The newest trainee from the Town Hall helped residents with queries about payments, discounts, and setting up Direct Debit accounts.

Cllr Carswell said: “It’s important to see first-hand some of the hard work that goes into making Hackney’s award-winning Revenues and Benefits Service so effective.

“It was also good to see how residents have their queries resolved courteously in sometimes difficult circumstances, and as quickly as possible.”

The Council’s Revenues and Benefits Service has recently seen national recognition, winning within the space of a week last October both the CIPFA Public Servants of the Year award for service transformation, and the Most Improved Team of the Year category at the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation (IRRV) Awards.

In March, 2008, the Service was also highly commended in the Local Government Chronicle Management Team award category, while a high-profile publicity campaign increased the number of Direct Debit taxpayers by 46 per cent between 2005 and 2007, a feat commended by Bacs Payment Schemes Limited at October’s IRRV awards.

The service has also introduced a number of new ways of working, including:

• Online Council Tax payments as well as an automated telephone payment facility providing the same function for those without access to the internet, which has collected more than £2.4million.

• Online account management, enabling residents to view their Council Tax and business rates account balances and resolve queries themselves.

• Enabling front-line officer proficiency in customer care skills, including training in sign language.