Better Connected survey points to slip in websites providing good service and common difficulties for users
An increasing number of local authority websites are offering residents online council tax accounts, but fewer are offering a good service than four years ago according to Socitm.
The public sector IT association has focused on the service in its latest Better Connected survey, and found a situation with some encouraging developments accompanied by shortcomings.
Its summary of the survey says that half of the 320 council sites offer an online tax account, compared with 38% at the time of the survey in 2012. But the proportion achieving three or four stars for their council tax pages slipped to 62% from 71%.
Socitm attributes this partly to the test being harder, including new questions such as 'Can I apply online for a single person discount?' and 'Can I find out if I will be charged if I own a property that is empty?' But it also points to common use of officious language and wide variations in the tone of voice and degree of helpfulness for anyone having problems paying the tax.
Lack of info
Other shortcomings include only 30% offering residents the option to receive statements and bills by email, a lack of information on payment options when clicking a 'Pay council tax' link, and a failure to explain the benefits of registering for an online account.
Councils recommended for good practice in the task include Argyll & Bute, Aylesbury Vale, Basildon, Bexley, Cheshire West and Chester, Cornwall, Maidstone, Redbridge and Wyre Forest.
The summary also praises Mansfield for offering a useful description of empty properties, and North Devon for a prominent scam warning.