Manchester City Council’s social media is set to be taken over by its Council Tax, Benefits, and Customer Services teams next week (14-18 August).
Revenue collected from council tax makes up a significant portion of the council's budget which was set in March following a consultation with the city's residents to identify their spending priorities.
During the week members of the teams – who work as some of the council’s front-line staff - will explain how they listen to, work with, and assist Manchester residents.
The city's residents advised - as part of the budget consultation - that they found the improvement and repair of roads, supporting vulnerable adults, looking after children and their education, and support in finding work as matters of the greatest importance.
Revenue collected through council tax is vital as it helps to pay for all of these services. In addition it also helps contribute to other public services including the police and fire service.
The council has dedicated teams of customer services officers who listen and offer their support to Manchester residents. The customer service teams help with almost 1.5 million enquiries and requests each year, over the phone, face to face and through the council’s website.
Councillor John Flanagan, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources, said: “In setting our three year budget we listened to what mattered most to our residents and their views were invaluable in helping shape our future spending plans. The collection of council tax is essential to fund a variety of council services and this includes programmes to help those most in need.
“Our customer services teams perform a vital, often challenging, role in supporting the city’s most vulnerable. I’d urge anyone in need of extra support, or those struggling to pay their council tax to get in touch with our teams to find out what help is available and to check they are receiving all the support they're eligible for.”
In certain circumstances support is available to residents to help pay their council tax through a range of discounts, exemptions and Council Tax Support.
Residents struggling to make their council tax payment are encouraged to contact the council, sooner rather than later, to discuss how they can catch up with their payments and to check if they are receiving all of the entitlements they are eligible for. This early intervention can help avoid recovery action being taken and further costs being incurred.
Matthew who works in a customer team for a range of council services including, environmental health, parking and neighbourhood services, said: “It’s important that people know that in the city where we live we have a service where people actually listen, respond, and respond effectively.”
The Customer Service Centre in Manchester’s Town Hall Extension not only provides a gateway to available council services but also to employment support and advice, budgeting and debt advice, and training opportunities.
A number of officers from these front line customer support teams will be tweeting about their day-to-day work - helping Manchester residents. Videos of team members will also be posted on the council's Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Lesley is a customer service officer and has worked for Manchester City Council for 19 years. She advises on a range of council services and enjoys the variety of enquires she helps with. As part of her role she makes sure individuals and families are receiving all of the entitlements they are eligible for. She remembers the case of a pensioner who was likely to be entitled to a significant back payment of Housing and Council Tax Benefit but was initially not willing to engage with her team. Lesley tried to contact the individual a number of times by letter, phone and even sent a visiting officer to his address with no success. But Lesley persevered and finally managed to speak with the pensioner to guide him through the necessary steps to receive his entitlement. She explained: “He was delighted that I’d gone that extra mile. He then wrote in with a nice card saying ‘thank you so much’. “
The Customer Service Centre is open Monday to Friday from 9.00am – 5.00pm for face to face consultations. Vulnerable adults and children are able to contact the teams 24/7 by telephone and through the council’s website.
Nigel has worked as a contact officer in the city council’s social services for nine years. In his role he works closely with a range of organisations who offer support to vulnerable individuals, including GPs and health visitors. In one of the videos filmed for next week's initiative, Nigel explains why he enjoys his role: “I’m in a position, I feel, where I can make a positive difference, I can help people because they come to me for help. It’s a great aspect of the job.”
As a contact officer Nigel is often able to help those in need. In a recent example from his day to day work Nigel describes how a GP, following a home visit, alerted him to an individual requiring some extra support. Nigel explains how he offered his help: “I was able to ring the resident and get his consent for me to speak to him and we managed to get our benefits team to help him claim benefits which in turn will help him, perhaps, get a motability car. The delight in his voice that somebody was attending to him, giving him support that he didn’t even think was there - it was very rewarding.”
Follow @ManCityCouncil on Twitter and join the conversation #OurManchester as officers from the city council’s Revenues and Benefits, and Customer Services teams will be tweeting about their day-to-day work on 15 August.
The teams will also be posting on Facebook at: facebook.com/mancitycouncil
For further information about Council Tax and Benefits, and the city council's Customer Services teams visit: www.manchester.gov.uk