‘Major investment’ required for fully automated council website which could lead to 13 jobs being axed

Council leader Neil Blake
Council leader Neil Blake

Annual savings of more than £450,000 could be achieved if Aylesbury Vale District Council invests heavily in a new website.

Council leader Neil Blake says a ‘fully automated’ website would mean up to 13 jobs could be cut in the long term but doing so was a ‘major project which needs to be matched by major investment’.

In a report to councillors he said that currently most ‘online forms used by customers to transact business with the council result in a level of manual intervention from officers’.

The objective is for a transaction to be completed ‘without any human interaction at all’, removing the need for staff.

The council is keeping its budget for the project confidential as it will go out for a competitive tender.

However, the report suggests the website should have paid for itself in less than three years.

Annual savings in the shorter term are calculated at between £245,000 and £315,000 – if this is the case, the council would be spending between £700,000 and £900,000 on the project (please see update below).

Mr Blake says: “Automation of services represents a significant potential savings area in terms of the provision of future council services.

“The upfront investment required to achieve this is considerable in order to provide a service which customers will want to use...This comes at a price.”

Subject to approval by full council on December 3, a contract should be awarded in the new year, with phase one of the website launching in August 2015.

It would be fully up and running by May 2016.

UPDATE: Following publication online, AVDC has contacted us regarding the cost of the project.

A spokesman said: Obviously, for the reasons given in the report, we don’t want to publish the budget prior to carrying out a formal procurement.

“The report does state that the savings will be phased and increase over time and your assumption is based on significant savings being achieved soon after the new systems are implemented.

“On that basis we can only confirm that your assumptions have overestimated the total proposed budget but we can’t comment further on the extent of the difference for the reasons given.”