Observer column: 26 January 2018
Switch on to My Hastings
Hastings Council has been improving its online services recently, through the 'My Hastings' pages on the Council's website. This makes it much easier for anyone with internet access to apply for services, pay for services, and report problems.
'My Hastings' has recently been upgraded, making it much simpler and quicker to report problems online. You can see if anyone else has reported the same problem, and you get a notification when the problem has been dealt with. You can report dog fouling, litter, flytipping, eyesore properties, and more. The system is already well-used, with around 20,000 reports made during 2017.
Back in 2010, the council had two street wardens in every ward in Hastings, looking out for problems and getting them dealt with. But funding for this has been cut, so we are now much more dependent on members of the public reporting problems - if they're not reported, they're less likely to be dealt with. It's important to report problems such littering, dog fouling and flytipping, for two reasons. Firstly, these reports go straight through to the contractor, so it's the quickest way to get the problem dealt with. But secondly, the areas that get the most reports are visited regularly by the remaining wardens - so reporting problems helps to identify these 'hotspot' areas.
Signing up for a My Hastings account lets you find out other things too. You get a record of all the issues you've reported, but you can also see your council tax account online, and your benefits account, if you're claiming benefits. You can also see current planning applications in your area, your waste and recycling collection days, information on your local elected representatives, your nearest doctor, dentist, schools, and more. Over 22,000 people now have a My Hastings account.
You can already apply for, and pay for, some council services online. Over the next year or so, we'll be putting all our applications and payments online. We will, for example, be introducing 'virtual' parking permits, so no paper permit will be necessary.
The pages and forms you see on the council's website are only a tiny part of the work involved to create all this. The council has developed the software systems behind My Hastings itself, which has saved money, and will create a product that we'll be able to market to others. We're also installing a new 'Enterprise Resource Planning' system, to replace separate existing outdated software for managing payments, accounting, payroll, and human resources, linking all these processes together and making them more efficient.
As well as making it easier to apply for services and report problems, all these IT innovations save the council money - and we have to take every opportunity we can to save money when our government grants have been cut so dramatically. But we do recognise that some people don't have access to the internet, so we have computer terminals available at the Council Contact Centre in the Town Hall, and it's still possible to contact council services by phone. Using the online service will always be quicker though, and get a quicker result.
So use My Hastings wherever you possibly can, and sign up for your own personal account - it's easier to report problems, to apply for services, and will give you useful information about your local area. And it helps the council look after our town.
Council Leader's column