Changes to the way people access council services

Idea store digital

There will be changes to the way people access services in the coming months as the council makes it easier for people to carry out transactions online.  

Many residents say it is difficult to get through to the council by phone and they are fed up with waiting in long queues to request services or carry out basic transactions.

At the same time, the council is facing having to make a further £44 million of savings because of continued government cuts. This is on top of the 64 per cent that has already been cut from core government funding since 2010.

So the council has been working to put its most used services online so people can access them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on their mobile devices at home, or using equipment at the new Digital Hubs being developed in our five Idea Stores.

This will save time for residents and save money for the public purse.

Currently 78 per cent of residents contact the council by phone (over 400,000 a year) with 54 per cent saying it is difficult to get through.

The average call costs taxpayers £6 each time and every face to face contact costs approximately £10, compared to the pennies it costs for an online transaction.

Face to face support will be available for those who need it. By helping people to access services online, more capacity will be freed up for personal support.

What’s changing?

The council has five Idea Stores and four One Stop Shops. With the exception of the Bethnal Green One Stop Shop based at 1 Rushmead, the Idea Stores are situated in close proximity to the One Stop Shops. In Watney Market, the One Stop Shop is actually inside the Idea Store.

By November, these services will be integrated at the Idea Stores, apart from Bethnal Green One Stop Shop.

In the coming months, people will be able to transact with key services online meaning they will no longer have to visit a council building to provide identification or make an application. Online services include: parking permits; purchasing visitor parking scratch cards; bulky waste collection; housing options; pest control services; benefits and registration services. 

Digital Hubs

The council is investing nearly £2 million to create Digital Hubs in each of the five Idea Stores to support residents who do not have devices, or need help using computers.

The hubs will offer free access to Wi-Fi and tablets, floorwalkers offering support and  an online training  programme of events on topics such as social media safety, online banking, coding and basic IT skills.

Customer experience now:

  • People have to queue and wait for a counter service.
  • Residents are required to bring in paper copies of documents for identification.
  • Decisions on applications can be lengthy and lead to repeat visits.
  • One Stop Shops are only open during office hours.
  • One Stop Shops are not evenly spread across the borough – there is not one on the Isle of Dogs, but there is an Idea Store.

Under the new way of working:

  • No queues! – People can complete end to end transactions immediately
  • Residents will be able to upload documents on their device so you don’t have to leave your home to get things done.
  • Face to face assistance remains on offer through the Idea Stores and additional personal support is available at One Stop Shop Bethnal Green based at 1 Rushmead for those who need it.
  • Those without devices can use free equipment at our Digital Hubs including free Wi-Fi and tablets.
  • Most Idea Stores are open seven days a week until 9pm, and available across the borough.
  • Free training will be available at our Digital Hubs to help people become more confident online.

Council staff will be at One Stop Shops, Idea Stores, children’s centres and other venues to support people through the changes and listen to any concerns they may have.  

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said: "Increasingly people now manage their lives online and council services should be no different. We will still provide face to face personal support to those who need it.

"Ultimately, this is the best way we can provide high quality and more convenient services to residents while also making the savings being forced on us by continued government cuts.”

Councillor Sabina Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts and Brexit said: “We have listened to our residents and want to make their lives easier by moving more of our services online.

"At the moment, most people have to turn up to a council building, and often it takes more than one visit to get things done. Our investment in digital technology means our residents can carry out transactions with the council any place, any time.

“Our Idea Stores are loved by our communities so it makes sense to create our Digital Hubs within them for those that need support to access council services online. We’ll continue to offer face to face support for residents."

Posted on Friday 21st June 2019