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Angus Council rethinks Skype customer contact plan


Authority looks again at Digital Strategy after protest that declared preference for internet channel in customer contact would undermine inclusivity

A Scottish local authority has put its digital strategy on hold after complaints that its preference for online channels is not sufficiently inclusive.

Angus Council is now looking again at elements of its strategy, although it is still emphasising the importance of channels such as Skype.

The move has come after a meeting of its Policy and Resources Committee late last month, which was asked to consider the Digital Strategy, a key feature of which is a ‘digital first’ approach. An accompanying Digital Work Plan states that Skype will be the preferred contact mode, with the option of face-to-face only when absolutely essential.

This has prompted a protest from the opposition Scottish Nationalist Party. Local news website The Courier has reported that Councillor Sheila Hands said the strategy does not set out how access to council services would be inclusive and warned of the potential for a two-tier system.

Age, poverty and geography

“I feel they were looking for as standardised a process as possible in terms of how they wanted people to access services,” she told the publication, adding: “It’s not just a disability related issue – it’s an age related one, it’s a poverty related one and it’s also a geographical related issue if your broadband is rubbish and you struggle to get online.”

In response, the council told UKAuthority that its officers are now working on an updated plan in which “accessibility is fully embedded” with the aim of providing it as soon as possible.

“There is always more that can be done and an area we are currently working on is greater engagement with a diverse range of customer groups to co-design customer facing services for accessibility which may include newer channels such as Skype,” said a spokesperson.

He added that in some areas the council is well positioned for accessibility, pointing to a high rating for its website by public sector IT association Socitm’s Better Connected service.

“Our elected members are very supportive of the move to digital and have responded positively to strategy proposals for digital services that are so good our customers prefer to use them, and that work must be based on demonstrable benefit expressed either as a cost reduction or an increase in services as required by the business or the end customer,” he said.

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