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1APP improvements: a new service just for LPAs

by on June 21, 2012

The 1APP changes which went live last week have bedded in nicely. Users are reporting improved productivity and our service desk is reporting very few issues.

Most of the communications last week focussed on the changes to the Supporting Documents process but we also introduced some improvements just for LPAs.

A new LPA payment account service giving local authorities a large degree of control over the 1APP payment screens is now live.

In a nutshell, LPAs can now use the new account service to administer the payment options they support for online applications.

We’ve created a guidance note on how to access your account which is available here.

At the Portal, we are especially keen to encourage more agents to pay online and for LPAs to support telephone payments. Both of these options should be beneficial to applicants, agents and LPAs in achieving quicker registration and validation of applications.

(Please note that any changes to local authority contact information on the Portal will still need to be sent to us. This includes links to your Council website and general contact information.)

While we’re on the subject of payment, the final part of the 1APP improvements project will go live in the coming weeks.

We’re moving payment step to the end of the submission process to reduce instances of LPAs receiving payments for applications before they are submitted, or as is sometimes the case, not submitted – a common problem.

This change will be supported by improved on-screen advice for applicants.

More on this closer to the time we go live.

16 Comments
  1. Malcolm Percy permalink

    Hopefully LPAs will still accept payment by cheque as otherwise it will be necessary for agents to include fees within their own charges which could have an effect on turnover and therefore potential VAT liability.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      The LPAs will have to support one of the off-line payment options of cheque, telephone, BACS or pay via the Council website. We would encourage more of the agents to pay online as this should lead to quicker registration and validation as the fee is required for this.

      Receiving online payments suits LPAs better as this avoids them having to wait for the cheques to arrive to be married up with the applications and registered, achieving a more complete online submission. We do not recommend LPAs remove cheque payment as this is the most popular payment option with c.65% choosing to pay by this method.

  2. I work for a LPA and we did request that an internal transfer option be included in the proposals for payment improvements. A simple text box for entering the finance code for the transfer should have been sufficient. We receive during the course of the year, quite a large amount of internal planning applications. The payment handling of these types of applications are not being catered for and force LPA’s to rely on other means to ensure payment has been received. This prolongs the registration purpose!

    Other than this, the changes are aligned with our own business improvements.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      A payment option of ‘internal transfer’ was considered as part of the 1APP improvements to the LPA payment account. However, this was not developed as we had a finite amount of budget for the changes and not enough to include this.

      It was also further complicated as this change would have needed a schema change and we did not want to impact the 1APP connectors by needing development by the ICT suppliers. This change is something we will consider as part the of our future improvements to the service.

  3. Neil Jones permalink

    Do people really still use cheques? Surely, online service = online payment…get with the times.

  4. Neil, I think that some of the smaller agents prefer cheques as they can pass on householder fees direct from the applicant. From those that still insist on using cheques there seems to be an accounting reason for the continued use.

    My own opinion is that they should be phased out but whilst there are significant users wanting to use this payment method we would have to continue to provide for it.

    I have tried to raise whether applications paid for by cheque are actually invalid until clearance, especially when they are being processed as valid in front of electronically paid applications.

  5. Michael Hayes permalink

    There needs to be a mechanism whereby the applicant can pay direct, without either the appicant having to give the agent their card details, or the agent having to give the applicant their portal password.

    • Malcolm Percy permalink

      I agree Michael. As a ‘smaller’ agent the majority of my clients cannot reclaim VAT and in order to remain competitive I need to ensure that my turnover is not falsely inflated by Local Authority fees thus exceeding the VAT threshold requiring me to charge clients 20% extra. Until such time as this is in place the Local Authorities will need to accept cheque payments.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Michael,

      We only had a very limited pot of money to make improvements and any changes had to be delivered within a very tight time-frame to enable the release of the funds.

      This change was on our list for the recent round of improvements but fell by the wayside as we proritised and managed our resource.
      We have done a lot of the work to make this happen though and it is once again under consideration.

    • Depending on the LPA, with the new changes you can direct your client to pay electronically on the councils website, along side parking fines council tax, school payments etc.

      This is a different payment method to the integration with the Planning Portal.

      We have not enabled it at our authority at the moment, but the plan is to do so ASAP.

      • Malcolm Percy permalink

        Great point. I will raise this with my Local LPA and see whether it is something they can consider.

  6. I haven’t looked at the new 1App yet, but the thing that irritates me is the ‘materials’ section – it has to be completed even for change of use with no physical change to the building!

    • Malcolm Percy permalink

      Isn’t it strange how quickly we forget how we used to have to submit planning applications?!! I think the Portal is a Godsend reducing printing costs, time etc. However, as Peter says, it’s the little things that irritate the most and I agree that the materials section is a pain to complete when the application doesn’t relate to it. Could a ‘not applicable’ tick box be introduced? Likewise on the Agricultural Land Declaration instead of having to enter ‘sole tenant – not applicable’ could there be a tick box to that effect as well? Keep up the good work guys.

      • PortalDirector permalink

        Malcolm, Peter,
        thanks for the feedback.
        I need to point out though that many of the irritants within the forms are not functional issues that we can resolve.
        If the legislation calls for a particular declaration for example to be completed, we have no option but to include it.
        All of your suggestionms that relate to non-functional issues are passed back to our policy colleagues for their consideration and we are hopeful that some of these bugbears will be resolved in the not too distant future.

  7. I am a small business and have now changed from asking clients to pay by cheque, most local authorities now accept card payment over the telephone. Unfortunately the 1App form does not include this as an option so to enable the application to be submitted I have to select the ‘pay by cheque’ option and then ask clients to ring and pay. It would be useful if there was an option to pay over the phone and the local authority details are provided for this so I can email to clients.

    I personally never include the local authority fees in my invoice to try and keep turn over down.

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