Berkshire borough blazes the trail for smart card services

28 Jun 01
Pensioners, fishermen and schoolchildren in the Berkshire borough of Bracknell Forest will soon be able to access council services through a single smart card.

29 June 2001

The borough council launched its 'Edge Card' on June 25 in association with BT Ignite in a deal worth almost £3.3m.

Residents will be able to use the card to purchase local services, borrow library books and participate in retail loyalty schemes. The card may ultimately provide access to as many as 20 distinct services, acting as everything from a bus pass to a fishing licence.

Gordon Mitchell, the council's chief executive, described it as 'a breakthrough for modernising public services' and added that it would increase 'resident recognition' of the services provided by the local authority.

Council leader Paul Bettison said the card would narrow the gap between council and resident: 'It's all about making our services, and Bracknell Forest as an authority, easily accessible to the clients. It will open up another channel of access to the authority and allow our people to interact with us. We are giving our residents the edge over everybody else in the area and the signs are they're receptive to it.'

Mitchell told Public Finance there had been a huge response when he invited feedback from other councils.

'Just under 100 local authorities across the country, from Aberdeen City Council to Devon County Council, replied to my letter,' he said. 'As a result we've formed the National Smart Card Forum, which will explore the scope for partnerships with other local authorities.'

The council has already completed a successful smart card pilot in local schools. Sixth-form pupils used a 'Connexions' card to both register their attendance and pay for school meals.

Bettison told Public Finance that this highlighted the way smart cards can confer anonymity to people on benefits.

'All the way through my primary school we all knew the kid who didn't have to pay for his school lunches and why he didn't have to pay. Using the card, nobody notices this kid when they're all in line and showing the card.

'That's social inclusion – we're not differentiating,' he said.


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