When Buckinghamshire County Council, Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe District Councils amalgamated to form a single unitary council, they were looking for a partner to not only help them transition successfully through their unitary process, but also deliver a multi-channel payment solution to offer choice and simplify payment processes for their 500,000+ residents, business customers and staff.
Pay360 secured the contract and was selected as the Payment Service provider to help in the restructure and ensure that business continuity was a priority, with the aim of providing a single Income Management and payment service fit for the new replacement services supplied to a very complex two-tier local government system.
Transitioning from five individually run local authorities into a single unitary council created some challenges. The council had several software systems in place managing the councils income, including four separate legacy cash and income systems, and countless line of business applications, each with different integration requirements.
A ‘big bang’ approach was originally proposed by the Council’s to aid their IT infrastructure, but after a thorough discovery project, led by Pay360’s Project Lead, it became apparent that the disparate systems, ongoing contracts and tight timescales would not support this approach.
Of key importance to the Council was that the new solution not only helped their staff members, but crucially also ensured that their residents and businesses had an easy and seamless way to make payments for services such as council tax, business rates and planning fees.
After the discovery project, a Pay360 Project Team, with a single point of contact Lead, was created to support Buckinghamshire County Council through their unitary project. The team contained specialists from Pay360’s Unitary & Shared Services Team who not only had extensive experience or working on unitary project and had a clear understanding of local authorities, equally important for this project, they were also experts in managing integrations with a number of different ERP solutions, including Dynamics 365, Oracle, ABS and Tech One.
In order to streamline the Council’s processes, Pay360 replaced their legacy systems with a single cloud-based platform, offering payment options for e-commerce and contact centres, and also included auto-telephone payment and Post Office payment choices.
As the systems that were in place during the political restructuring could not just be removed or replaced given the very short timescale, the solution provided was built to ensure that it could scale up, down and sideways to futureproof the solution, regardless of future changes the Council may face.
When it came to testing, it was identified that, although a project lead at county level was nominated, that the district councils were better placed to support the testing as they had the hands-on experience of a very complex systems environment. This helped during implementation, as it gave the ability to call on experienced resource who “took ownership” of the systems and helped with the ability to self-tailor, creating their own reports and interfaces, empowering the new unitary in providing a seamless switch over for their residents.
Despite its challenges, the project was successfully implemented and rolled out within the timescales given and continues to meet the needs of the new Unitary.
The new payment system enables easy payments to be taken via a range of different methods and channels. It also helps the council to meet their compliance and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requirements.
Their new Income Management solution allows the council’s employees to seamlessly reconcile income for the council and allows for simpler reconciliation between payment transactions and banking entries. It provides comprehensive reporting and allows reformatting of data that can integrate easily with back-office systems such as administrative functions.
Importantly for the Unitary, Pay360’s cloud solution supports secure home and remote working by enabling employees based in any location to take payments from customers. This is particularly helpful to support the increasing hybrid workforce.
In addition to the benefits to the Council’s staff and residents, the Council has also benefited from the cost efficiencies and dedicated support advantages that come with having a single provider.
Clare Bradshaw, Head of Finance Operations, Buckinghamshire Council, said:
“We were looking for a cloud-based solution but also a partner who understood our needs as a unitary authority and Pay360 was the perfect fit. The new system will provide a single seamless payment system with a wide range of secure payment options for our residents.”