At BHIB Councils Insurance, we believe it’s important to work with other service providers that local councils can benefit from, making it easier for you to access the resources you need – all in one place.
Therefore we wanted to introduce our newest partner, Scribe Accounts, an accountancy firm specifically for town and parish councils.
We spoke with Hannah Hignett, Campaign Manager at Scribe Accounts. Hannah explains how Scribe Accounts operates and discusses the support that Scribe offers to parish and town councils, detailing their successful private Facebook group which aims to bring councils across the UK together to share advice and resources. Hannah touches on the challenges that councils are facing at the moment and offers advice on how they can reduce expenses.
Can you tell me about Scribe Accounts?
Scribe is a web-based accounting software built exclusively for Town and Parish Councils. We have been working with Clerks for 30 years to simplify their accounts, whilst saving hours of manual work and eliminating the need for complex spreadsheets. Our budget-led accounts package includes built-in bank reconciliation, budget profiling, full audit trail and automatically produces monthly reports and year-end statements at a click of a button. We are also recognised by HMRC as Making-Tax-Digital compliant.
We have over 500 council’s actively using Scribe (and growing by the day!). We offer set up and training with our in-house qualified accountant and unlimited support throughout your lifetime with Scribe. Our customers love that we are always on the end of the phone should they need anything!
Can you tell me more about the ‘Local Council Clerk’s Community’? Why did you set this up? Is it successful?
The Local Clerk’s Community Group was set up with the aim of bringing Clerk’s together all across the UK.
Upon speaking to our customers, we learnt that being a Clerk can feel like an isolated role and because of this it can be difficult to get advice or support from someone working in the same position.
We wanted to change this, and we wanted Clerk’s to feel part of a community and to have a safe space to chat and connect (and occasionally let off some steam!) From this The Local Council’s Clerks’ Community group was born.
It is a private group on Facebook which has been running for 18 months and is open to all Clerk’s and RFO’s (not just Scribe customers!). We have nearly 650 members so far and we are delighted that it has been so successful and helped bring Clerk’s together all across the UK.
Have you had to adapt any of your services since COVID-19? Have you seen success with any new initiatives?
As Scribe is completely web-based we already offered remote set up and training, therefore the impact of COVID-19 was reduced. The Scribe Team have been working remotely at home throughout the pandemic and have been able to provide the same high level of support as always (In-between home-schooling!).
To make things easier for new customers we provided 3 months free access to Scribe. For our existing customers we offered temporary additional logins, deferred payment options and free read-only access for Auditors during year-end. We also produced some guides on how to use Zoom to host council meetings online.
Our main reason for doing the above was to ensure our customers did not have to worry and this allowed them time to focus on more important matters.
What is the most common problem for Councils that you are being asked about at the moment?
The most common problem Clerk’s are facing at the moment is the challenge of either holding remote meetings or in some cases not having meetings at all. This can make it difficult for the Clerk to have items approved for expenditure and to present new items and policies to the Councillors. In addition to this many Clerks are now tasked with facilitating the reopening of public spaces within their community whilst producing risk assessments in new and unchartered territory.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to a council trying to look at ways to reduce expenses right now?
We always say this time of year is the best time to strip back and review how you manage your council’s account. Year-end provides a clean slate therefore it is a great time to review to see if there is anything you could change or consider moving to an accounts package. It is much easier to do this at the start of the year rather than halfway through.
One of the most common feedback points we have from some of the smaller councils is “we are only a tiny council, therefore, we can’t afford an accounts package and we don’t need one”, however, our accounts packages are structured specifically to the council income level and we offer reduced pricing for Councils with an income under £10,000. Once the Clerk sees how Scribe makes year-end a doddle they can’t wait to sign up!
What is the best council support-resource you have come across they should all know about?
In our experience a lot of our Clerks use their Local Council Association as their first port of call, NALC would be the next tier to support Clerks. However, we are seeing an increase in Clerk’s using social media platforms such as The Local Council Clerk’s Community to approach one another to gain insight or advice into issues currently being faced. The majority of members within this group are very reactive and so within a few minutes of posting a query a problem can quickly generate a discussion with a variety of outcomes and conclusions. We have even seen examples of Clerk’s sharing document templates with one another which can be a great resource as many of these can be working in an isolated role and the group provides instant access to a wealth of information and knowledge.