Headlines: June 6th, 2012

Paying money to pubic bodies, including fines, can be speeded up by giving incentives. Negative incentives, such as late payment fines, are less effective.

The findings from a YouGov carried out for SAS, providers of business analytics software and services, indicate that the public sector should focus on incentivising people to pay fines and bills or complete forms on time over penalising them.

When participants were asked to choose which three options would most encourage them to pay council tax on time, 70 per cent said receiving a discount and 27 per cent said being entered into lotteries or prize draws. Only 24 per cent said being advised that failure to pay on time would incur a late payment penalty fee would encourage them to pay on time.

The survey also found that negative incentives, or ‘sticks’, such as naming and shaming late payers or penalty charges, have less of an impact than positive incentives, or ‘carrots’, such as discounts, prize lotteries and higher rebates. SAS believes that taking these results on board could improve citizen data collection and citizen profiling, as well as enhancing services and reducing operational costs associated with debt collection and fraud detection.

The ‘Communicating with the Citizen’ study also showed that channel of communication was also highly relevant for maximising data capture, so understanding how people wish to be contacted is key. Despite the growth in online and mobile communication channels in recent years 50 per cent favoured a hard copy letter for receiving general government agency communications, followed by email, 37 per cent. Text messages and phone calls from a government agency were the most likely channels to be ignored.