More council jobs could go as a result of better digital services

Consultants are to draw up a business case for a £5m overhaul of IT to allow a cash-strapped council to interact with residents via their smart phones.

Ultimately the upgrade at Hull Council is expected to save millions a year - partly through job cuts.

A number of customer service centres, which give access to over 130 council services including applying for benefits or housing and getting a bus pass, have already cut opening hours.

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Deputy council leader Coun Daren Hale said: “I think there is a high likelihood that there will be less opening hours (at CSCs) and will almost certainly lead to some consolidation going forward.

“It won’t be immediate, but once the changes are bedded in.”

Coun Hale said many residents didn’t have the Internet at home, but did have limited access on their smart phones or tablets, adding: “Our website is not very good. The reason why some people come to a call centre or customer service centre is because it is easier than using the technology available.”

However he said they would keep a “core” of face-to-face services available, for example at the Wilson Centre for complex cases.

Details of the project, including the £5.2m cost of procuring software, software engineering and consultancy, and ongoing costs of £442,000 per year, were revealed in a decision record.

It said there had been minimal investment in the council’s system for eight years, adding: “The lack of online services, associated integration to ‘back office’ systems and absence of investment in regularly upgrading supporting systems has resulted in the need for a significant overhaul.”

The report warns that there is a “significant risk” that projected savings - £19m in total by 2025 - won’t be realised. While staff won’t be affected in the short term “there will ultimately be an impact...as the savings will be in part from staffing reductions.”

Academics have argued that predicted computerisation could make nearly half of jobs redundant within ten to 20 years.