Column: Why are we still paying Fife Council by cheque ... in 2019?

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Pay by cheque. The words jumped out at me last week as I read Fife Council’s PR on the new discount parking season tickets for our town centre.

How many folk use a cheque book in 2019?

An entire generation has grown up not knowing the horror of reaching your second last cheque and your new book hadn’t yet arrived.

They know nothing of the stress caused by empty stubs which left you wondering what you’d spent, where you’d spent it, and how much you’d spent!

I dug out my old cheque book from the back of the cupboard, and found the last one I wrote dated back to 2010. Grief, I was still in my early 40s back then!

In fact, I think the last time I saw a cheque book was as part of a prize on Les Dawson’s Blankety Blank on BBC1.

And yet, here we are in an age of online banking, Paypal, paperless transactions, smartphones and facial recognition to authorise payments and the council is trundling along as if the internet has only just been invented and probably won’t take off.

As a resident, I have very few dealings with any council departments, so I was gobsmacked at how old and out of touch the system felt – and how un-user friendly it is in 2019.

To get a pass, I have to download the form, print it off and post it. There was even an option to collect your ticket from the Toon Hoose.

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If Amazon operated a similar a business model well, it simply wouldn’t be in business at all. That muckle big warehouse in the M90 would be lying empty with a giant ‘To Let’ sign creaking from the rafters.

True, you could also pay by credit card – even that feels less than cutting edge – but the whole process was a decade or more out of step with how society shops and orders goods and services.

I can go to a concert, board an aeroplane and book a hotel with all my tickets stored on my smartphone.

But to get a pass to park in town, I have to dig out my trusty cheque book. Hmm, wonder how many senior execs at Fife Council write cheques? Let me guess – none.

The whole process felt incredibly clunky and outdated.

So, I asked the PR team who in turn asked the officers who in turn got back with a detailed explanation.

Most applications are done over the phone, which is fair enough, but for those who prefer not to call, it’s that Blankety Blank cheque book and pen promising to pay the bearer the sum of £60.

None of this is the fault of the officers – they can only work with the systems they are given – but the council needs to get a wriggle on and embrace this new fangled technology. They’ll be championing Bebo and Myspace soon if we don’t watch out!

I know they move with all the speed of a stricken oil tanker at the best of times, and trying to create a new online system, which integrates all services into a one-stop shop, seems embroiled in protocol and takes forever.

It needs to take a leaf out of private enterprise, and make its online functions snappier and simpler.

These days, the cheque is no longer in the post...