Hackney looks to boost uptake of council rent service

Written by Sam Trendall on 3 July 2018 in News
News

Borough looks to mobile optimisation, personal notifications and possible implementation of GOV.UK Pay

Credit: Sunil Prasannan/CC BY-SA 3.0

Hackney Council wants to ramp up the number of council tenants paying their rent online.

In October 2017, the authority launched an online rent account service for social-housing tenants in the London borough. Since then, the service has been used about 50,000 by 12,000 individual citizens. 

But uptake is still relatively low, with only 27% of users having tried to make a payment via their account, with 36% beginning – but failing to complete – the process of making an online payment. 

The council wishes to increase usage of the service, and has allocated £80,000 to undertake a three-month project with a supplier that can help it do so. According to a contract notice issued on the Digital Marketplace, Hackney is particularly interested in boosting take-up via the use of personalised notifications, and by making the payment process easier – potentially by using GOV.UK Pay. 


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But the council adds that it is aware that using the government payments tool may result in “delays in updating the user's balance – on reconciling it with the council's finance system – [that] may degrade the experience”.

However it chooses to proceed, Hackney wishes to address issues caused by the fact that the current service is not optimised for mobile – despite being accessed on a mobile device by 80% of users. The council also notes other “problems to be solved” include the inability to send messages other than those containing basic rent data, and the fact that the “low-code” Outsystems platform used to build the service means that there are “constraints in the user interface”.

The service, which was developed by internal council staff in collaboration with external contractors, “consumes APIs” from a housing-management application. These APIs are available on software-development repository GitHub. But Hackney said that it is “open to alternative approaches to technology that better meets user needs”.

The council added: “We are building a case-management solution to support income collection, which will include an algorithm to identify [people] likely to pay their balance and prioritise cases that require human intervention, and a CRM for tenancy contact.”

Bids for the three-month project are open until 11 July. The contract will be worth an estimated £80,000 to the chosen supplier, with more money potentially available in due course “for support and maintenance of the solution, if required”.

The winning bidder will be expected to work on-site at council headquarters in Hackney three or four days a week.

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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