Southend Council doubles take-up

EXCLUSIVE: Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has doubled the take-up of its voluntary benefits scheme, since it switched providers and added employee discounts to the scheme in April 2012.

The scheme previously offered access to childcare vouchers and a bikes for work via a salary sacrifice arrangement. In March 2012, it had 76 active members, which has risen to 149 by the end of October 2012.

The council’s existing provider contract had come to an end and it decided to join a framework agreement that was already in place through another local authority, rather than go through a procurement process,.

It introduced the new voluntary benefits plan, provided by Wider Wallet, to help its 2,000 staff make their money go further.

Karen Melville, group HR manager at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said: “There is a pay freeze and people are finding things difficult, so we wanted to look at ways in which we could improve the benefits package, but not actually cost the council any money.”

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council initially communicated the change of providers to employees who were using the childcare vouchers and the bikes scheme.

It then rolled out communications specifically about the discounts scheme for all staff in March. These included information on the council’s intranet site, posters, attachments to payslips and a face-to-face presentation from a representative from Wider Wallet.

Melville added: “We also did an employee benefits promotion for our staff, where we invited a number of suppliers to come in.”