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How Australia’s Most Efficient Councils Are Overcoming Common Local Government Finance Issues

May 12, 2023

Written by Elliott Donazzan | Managing Director

In my interactions with numerous local government finance leaders - the very professionals responsible for overseeing the fiscal health of their councils - I've noted that the challenges they face often appear unending. From handling late payments to implementing daunting modernisations of finance, procurement, and payment systems, there's a palpable sense of risk.

However, something has consistently caught my attention. The most progressive among these leaders manage to transform these challenges into opportunities for advancement. They opt to apply innovative solutions that not only mitigate the existing issues but also enhance their financial operations and customer satisfaction over the long haul.

Here are 4 ways they do it:

1. Eradicating Incorrect Billing or Payments

Billing errors or multiple payments can cause a significant amount of dissatisfaction among ratepayers and create unnecessary administrative burdens for councils. I often ask finance teams:

  • How many times per week does your team need to investigate or rectify a billing issue, or over / underpayment?
  • How long does it take to rectify each time?

When they do the calculations, they see how this often results in hundreds of hours of a finance team’s time being dedicated to solving these issues (without even assessing the customer complaints or dissatisfaction reflected onto council!).

To combat this, efficient councils are investing in robust billing software and payment systems that show up-to-date balances outstanding and can even auto-calculate arrangement amounts or times based on the data or user input.

Ultimately, an efficient billing and payment system reduces errors, streamlines the billing process, and enhances the ratepayer experience. Furthermore, implementing a strong auditing process can catch mistakes early, preventing them from escalating into larger issues.

For an efficient and effective fix, Payble has developed our innovative system that displays the most up-to-date account balance, and auto calculates all amounts for arrangements or direct debits. See our our implementation with the City of Kingston below:

Kingston Billing Payment Process Example

2. Tackling Late Payments Head-On

Local councils and rates teams often grapple with late payments from ratepayers, leading to a revenue delay that can disrupt budgeting and planning and contribute to poor customer experience. However, savvy councils are introducing flexible payment plans and options, including digital direct debit arrangements via bank account or cards, in order to minimise the amount of customers that need manual intervention.

This approach allows ratepayers to pay their bills in manageable instalments, making it easier for them to meet their financial obligations. In addition, some councils offer early payment discounts to incentivise timely payments.

3. Adopting Efficient Payment Systems

Outdated or overly complex payment systems can be a significant deterrent for ratepayers. Modern ratepayers desire a seamless and user-friendly payment experience. Recognising this need, savvy councils are investing in modern payment systems that offer various payment methods, including credit card transactions, bank transfers, and even digital wallets.

Moreover, mobile payment solutions have become a game-changer, providing convenience for ratepayers and enhancing the efficiency of payment collection for councils.

Most Councils still use forms. This promotes incorrect billing and payment information.

4. Managing Change of Ownership

Changes in property ownership can lead to confusion about who should pay the rates, resulting in missed payments. Progressive councils are addressing this issue by working closely with data provided via PEXA, conveyancers and real estate agents to ensure a smooth transition of rate liability when properties change hands.

Further, the best payment systems like Payble are able to detect changes in ownership, and successfully alert council and new and old owners to ensure they correctly update or cancel their ongoing payments.

The proactive communication ensures that owners are aware of their obligations and understand the importance of timely payments, thereby preventing the problem before it even occurs.

To sum it up, the issues local government finance teams face are time consuming, but easily correctable. By adopting flexible payment plans, investing in robust billing software, modernising payment systems, and managing changes in property ownership proactively, local councils can transform these challenges into opportunities for growth and improvement.

Remember, the key to overcoming these issues lies in embracing innovative solutions, investing in technology, and maintaining clear, open communication with ratepayers. As you address these issues head-on, you'll not only improve your council's financial health but also strengthen the relationship with your ratepayers, fostering a vibrant and prosperous community.

Interested in smart solutions for your council? Contact me at Elliott@payble.com.au for a demo, or try it out yourself by scanning the QR Code below.

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