This assessment relates to areas of our website which are built and hosted through third party software and 'skinned' to look like our website.
These providers are:
- Milestone - who provide services via FCC, our waste contractor, for reporting missed bins, checking waste collection days and ordering replacement recycling equipment
- Northgate - who provide our customer access portals for housing benefits and council tax
- Taranto - who provide our customer access portal for Penalty Charge Notifications and Parking Permits.
- Adelante - who provide our online payment systems.
All four providers were sourced through an extensive procurement process. They are respected providers used by other Local Authorities with many years of experience in providing these services.
We are working closely with them to ensure that the services they provide comply with WCAG 2.1 guidelines
The benefits of bringing these services back "in-house" would be:
- The Council would have more access and control over the accessibility of these customer access portals
Our assessment of the burden of bringing these services back in-house is that:
- The cost of renegotiating the contracts covering these services would be prohibitively expensive, and a poor use of taxpayer's money.
- Many of the contracts were jointly procured with other Local Authorities, meaning that other Councils would be negatively impacted were we to terminate the contracts early. This could also have a negative effect on the Council's reputation.
- We estimate that to run these three service areas would require at least 2 FTE positions within the Councils' IT team. The Council currently does not have the resources to achieve this.
- In addition, handling these enquiries in-house would require additional resources in the Parking, Revenues and Benefits and Waste and Recycling Teams.
Also relevant to this decision are that:
- Three areas currently outsourced to the external providers are three of our most common areas of enquiry. The providers we use have extensive experience in providing their services to customers; for example Northgate Public Services are used by 95% of Local Authorities. It is unlikely that the council could deliver a similar platform with the same level of success.
- All four providers work extensively with the Public Sector, and all are currently working to achieve WCAG 2.1 or higher. We believe that these customer access portals already meet many accessibility standards and will soon meet all of them.
- If a customer cannot use the portals, we have staff who can assist in any way necessary. This service will always be available via the Council.
There is a high cost and potential legal difficulties involved in ending our contracts with third party software providers. This could also potentially lead to loss of reputation for the Council.
We believe that the software provided from third party suppliers will be fully accessible in the near future and will continue to work with them to achieve this.
We are speaking to the providers of our accessibility audit tool, Silktide, to add these third party URLs to our regular website scans. This will allow us to identify any potential problems and notify the supplier.
We consider that the costs of creating our own in-house platforms for these services would be a poor use of limited staff time and resources and would represent a disproportionate burden on the Council in terms of cost.
Date of Assessment
20 December 2020
Reviewed 10 August 2023