Shepway Council ups use of online services with open source system

Shepway District Council in Kent has increased the use of online services and cut customer query response times after installing an open source payments processing engine.

Shepway District Council in Kent has increased the use of online services and cut customer query response times after installing an open source payments processing engine.

The council deployed the open source cash receipting application to process customer payments coming from its contact centre and its website.

The application links to a customer relationship management (CRM) system for payments coming through the contact centre. For payments via the website, the application links to the Government Gateway portal to authenticate individuals.

Shepway District Council said, "The result was that, just over six months after installation, residents of Shepway are using the internet to pay for services including council tax, business rates, housing benefit overpayments, parking fines, rents and sundry debts. Nearly 1,000 payments were processed online during the first six months."

The volume of calls to the contact centre fell by 20% during the same period.

Council chiefs were able to save an estimated £2,700 by using the reduction in call volumes to speed up the remaining customer queries.

The council is installing a second version of the payment processing application, which runs on a Sun AG DIS box, that will process payments made through its planning portal.

Alongside the customer-facing system, the council installed an intranet that council employees can use to transact payments.

Shepway District Council joins three much larger councils - Birmingham, Bristol and Cheshire - in the select group of local authorities that have successfully implemented open source software.

The councils that have installed open source systems set up an online forum called the Open Source Academy to share best practice throughout local government.

Each local authority in the Open Source Academy has implemented different applications.

Cheshire County Council used open source software to replace Windows 98 when Microsoft withdrew support for the operating system. The county council decided that keeping the old Windows 98 devices with an open source client would be cheaper than upgrading to a later version of Windows.

Bristol City Council installed Star Office (the open source alternative to Microsoft Office) on more than 200 computers.

Birmingham City Council implemented the Open Office productivity suite in its public libraries.

Open source advice site launched >>

Councils' Open Source Academy >>

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