Council uses Bacs to take control

Castle Morpeth Council benefits from implementing its own Bacs payment system.

Castle Morpeth Council benefits from implementing its own Bacs payment system.

Castle Morpeth Borough Council in Northumberland has implemented Bacs payment clearing software to allow it to send and receive payments electronically in-house and support its drive towards the provision of electronic services.

Julie Brown, the council's IT manager, says the implementation is part of a wider initiative to move control of its IT away from the county council - which previously carried out tasks such as Bacs transfers on a bureau basis - to a service managed by a third party.

The council started looking for a Bacs system in June 2001. Albany Software's Albacs product was eventually chosen because, according to Brown, it is easy to use, cost-effective, is backed up by good references and supports the euro. "It did everything we wanted it to do and we were fully confident in it," says Brown.

The first application to be used on the system was payroll. The software was up and running by mid-October and the council's IT team subjected it to routine operational tests before it went live in December. Brown says that, once set up, the system handled the payroll function without a hitch and now the software "just does it every month".

The next step in the implementation will be to go live with handling direct debits, council tax payments, non-domestic rates and housing rents. These applications are all scheduled to come online in June and Brown is optimistic about their chances of success.

Because Castle Morpeth Council knew in advance which applications it would be taking over from the county council, it was able to ensure that most of them were set up on the system when it was installed last year. Basically, it just has to "switch them on" when it is ready to use them.

Brown says having more control over Bacs payments will give the council greater flexibility by enabling it to conduct ad hoc bank transfers, for example.

The council hopes the Bacs system, which can also handle electronic transmissions such as fax and e-mail, will enable it to interact more effectively with its suppliers. This would take Morpeth some way towards the twin goals of embracing e-business and e-government, which are likely to bring significant administration cost savings.

One thing that has particularly impressed Brown about Albacs is the level of support the council has received from Albany. Shortly after signing the contract, the company supplied the council with a comprehensive implementation support pack. "It was very much a one-stop-shop," says Brown. Since then she has had very little to complain about. "It has worked very well from day one and we are very happy with it," she adds.

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