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Customer Services, Property and Technology (includes Council Tax)

Customer Services, Property and Technology

The Council’s role

Included in this section are services provided directly to the residents and businesses of Gateshead providing services to its customers, collecting income due and supporting residents through a benefits service. There are also a number of activities which may not be recognised or seen by the public but are integral to the Council working efficiently and effectively. This includes ICT and property services. 

Possible destination

Customer Services and cashiers

The fundamental aim will be to reduce the demand for Customer Services by reducing the need for residents to contact the Council by provision of effective services that are well communicated. 

There will be less reliance on dedicated customer service advisors for face to face contacts and telephony and more reliance on automated telephony and web development to allow customer self-service and online business transactions.  Also a reduction in cash operations by moving customers to more efficient modes of payment e.g. direct debit, on line or telephony card payments.   Working with customers to change contact type and also to improve service delivery and communications.  

Agile working

Through the Agile Working work stream and the drive towards enabling a Smarter way of working the Council’s workforce will increasingly be using technology to ‘work smart’ at the right place, right time, right method.  

To the employee this may mean that ‘work’ will be thought of as less of a place but more of a thing to do to achieve an outcome. Colleagues will be ‘at work’ wherever that place best matches the needs of our customers and efficient, smarter ways of working.

We will increasingly be working across traditional organisational and geographical boundaries. A greater level of collaboration between ‘virtual’ teams will need to be supported by new technology. This will present challenges for the IT infrastructure, cyber security and associated systems and networks that must be met.  There will be a need to explore different models of delivery including the sharing of services.

Investment in technology

A fundamental change in the way the organisation works will result in a requirement for significant targeted investment over the 3 years. Without this investment the Council will fail to achieve its ambitions. Effective project management will be essential to ensure that the investment delivers savings.

Asset Management

  • Reduced operational portfolio.
  • Increased sharing of property and land with partners to deliver services to communities.
  • Realise increased income potential from property portfolio.
  • Property Management via a mixed economy of in-house, external and partnership provision (e.g. Public Sector Partnership, Gateshead Regeneration Partnership).

Facilities Management

  • Increase partnership working
  • Increased income
  • Explore alternative delivery models

Key actions to get to the destination

  • Business Case to be developed on future trading of Facilities Management to generate income.
  • Future delivery options in relation to trading and links to other traded services to be understood.
  • Delivery of the Digital Gateshead Project
  • Establishing multi-agency intelligence network (including open and shared data – involvement with North East Office of data analytics)
  • Customer services and cashiers - more reliance on automated telephony, web development to allow customer self-service and online business transactions which is an integral part of channel shift within the digital programme. Also much reduced cash operations by moving customers to more efficient modes of payment e.g. direct debit, on line or telephony card payments.
  • Revenues - increased automation of business processes including e- billing, merging of bills and benefits notices, increased direct debit payments, increased use of online forms promoting customer self-service. Objective of maximising revenue collection. Possible shared services.
  • Benefits and Assessments - increased customer self-service and process automation promoting self-service with on line forms. Also greater emphasis on trading activities and income generation e.g. deputyships. Possible shared services.
  • Payroll/ HR support – IT implementation will bring increased manager and employee self-service. Also greater emphasis on trading of support services including to other local authorities.
  • Exchequer - further Agresso development and increased investment in digital solutions as well as greater use of purchase cards to reduce invoice processing requirements. Also greater emphasis on trading activities.
  • Review of strategic and operational property management arrangements

Budget proposals

 Ref.Draft proposals
49 Reduction in Facilities Management  establishment level with further reductions in year 2
50 Cleaning of buildings – various options at different savings levels 
51 ICT contract savings, review of licences and agreements across service, and consolidation of systems software  
52 Reviews, post deletions from self-service channel shift, and traded income with additional savings in year 2 and 3
53 Council Tax – removal of 1 month exemption/business rates avoidance  
54 Discretionary rate relief policy  
55 Property Services income generation with additional income of £36,000 for years 2 and 3 

Year 2 and year 3 will see the following further work:

  • Development of the trading model to improve performance of the Supporting Independence Service
  • Digital – Agile working benefit realisation
  • Establishment of a Local Authority Investment Partnership – Public Sector Plc to increase revenue and capital through property rationalisation
  • ICT service restructure
  • Improvement to financial performance of Building Cleaning contracts
  • Further saving from management structure in Facilities Management 

* These proposals formed part of last year’s budget consultation exercise.