Pendle Borough Council hatches plan to digitise 2/3 of citizen transactions within five years
North west council signs £54m 10-year contract with outsourcer Liberata to drive digital transformation agenda
Liberata already employs 300 people in the town of Nelson, the administrative centre of Pendle Credit: PA
Pendle Borough Council plans to conduct two thirds of its transactions with citizens online within the next half decade.
The goal comes as part of its ongoing engagement with Liberata, with which it has just agreed a 10-year, £54m contract extension, that will see the council employing the government-focused outsourcer until at least 2030.
Liberata and the council have worked together since 2005, with the company already delivering a wide range of back-office services, including HR, payroll, tax and benefits, property services, fraud detection, and IT. The current contract between the two parties runs until 2020, but a £5.4m-a-year, decade-long extension has now been signed.
The contract is intended to deliver to the council savings of £4.9m over its 10-year lifespan. At the same time, Liberata will invest at least £1m in assembling the necessary hardware and software infrastructure to facilitate the planned “self-serve transformation programme”.
A key yardstick of that programme is the goal to drive 65% of the council’s “transactions” online within the next five years. The current figure is a little under 20%.
Liberata chief executive Charlie Bruin told PublicTechnology that tax, housing, and refuse collection are three key areas where residents’ interaction with the council could easily be moved onto a digital platform.
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“We can provide a better service and reduce the cost of delivering it – it is not just about migrating people from making a phone call or coming in face-to-face,” he said.
In a statement, Dean Langton, strategic director and head of paid service at Pendle Borough Council, said: “As we embark on our digital-transformation journey, Liberata’s expertise in channel shift will prove invaluable. In the face of budgetary challenges, Liberata has always worked with us to identify alternative ways of doing things, allowing us to realise additional cost savings.”
In addition to the digital transformation agenda, Bruin said “there is also a big regeneration and job-creation programme.”
The outsourcing company already has a large workforce in Pendle – including 300 employees at its office in Nelson – and across the wider north west. The firm also has operations in neighbouring Burnley, and further north in Barrow-in-Furness, and all three offices play an important role in serving Liberata’s public sector customers across the UK, Bruin said.
“Pendle, Burnley, and Barrow are great for investing, because we really can retain our people,” he added. “When we win new business in London – where there is full employment – [it is more difficult]. And we can provide a great service [from the north west].”
Although Bruin said that “you are not going to generate 100 jobs in the next 18 months”, he predicted that as many as 150 people could join Liberata’s team in Pendle over the coming years.
Leader of Pendle Council Mohammed Iqbal said: “This [contract extension] will further secure Liberata as a major employer in Pendle, and in particular Nelson, where it employs 300 people in Number One Market Street. That footfall has a big impact on the town’s economy.
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