Stuck in the past – Islington’s council’s out-dated online payments

I’m useless, I admit it. I rarely manage to remember to pay my council tax at the beginning of the month. I’ve resisted going for direct debit as long as possible because I don’t like handing control of my money over to other people, but I’m going to have to go for it now. Because… I “have lost the right to pay by instalments”.

Yes, I had to be reminded too many times with red-topped letters and now I either pay it all at once (not too bad as we approach the end of the council tax year) or sign up for direct debit. Of course, the council could actually have made it a bit easier to pay.

Oh, hang on, didn’t I get that nice payment card in the post a couple of weeks back. A payment card that I can bring with me to the post office or other places instead of the bits of paper I normally bring… to the web. I’ve been paying exclusively online for around 5 years and the council wastes god knows how much of my council tax to send me a useless piece of plastic designed to make it easier to do something I haven’t done in half a decade. I’m guessing I’m not the only online payer who got sent one of these, so the waste of money has got to be a lot.

The council’s website used to allow you to set up an account so you could save your details, log in and pay relatively easily. Unfortunately, the system kept screwing up (I’ve probably still got the email trail when I kept complaining to them about this) and they replaced it – with the worst online payment system I’ve seen in a long time.

You want to pay? Well, if you can find the link (no longer highlighted on a page with WAY too many links – try using a screen-reader with this baby), you get a page with more links, then a link to a pop-up and then another page of links. So, you tell it twice you want to pay something and have to tell it twice you want to pay council tax. Then you get finally get a form that asks you what your reference number is and how much you want to pay (so you need your bill handy – the handy payment card is no use here).

Then you have to fill out all your card details. Every bloody time, 11 times a year. Where else do you have to fill out all of your details every bloody time? What year is this, 1998?

How about a proper system where you can save your details, set up email reminders, get your account balance – something that’s a little bit modern, effort saving and likely to help ensure someone as useless as me pays my bills on time? Or they could just continue to make it awkward and force me to pay by direct debit next year.

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Author: Donnacha DeLong

Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Donnacha DeLong is an NUJ activist, journalist and online communications consultant with more than 15 years' professional experience.

1 thought on “Stuck in the past – Islington’s council’s out-dated online payments”

  1. So it’s not only me who has problems with it then.

    I set up reminders, with all reference numbers and amounts in my calendar program, otherwise dealing with Islington Council Tax would be a massive pain indeed.

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