Council approves 311 system to improve service to citizens

New decision on operational costs will mean savings for taxpayers

Mayor Sam Sullivan today congratulated Council for moving forward on the implementation of a 311 system and consolidated citizen service centre for Vancouver.

311 will provide a single phone number for non-emergency municipal services and information, and will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in multiple languages. The system is also expected to result in more streamlined operations and potential cost savings for the City.

City staff had proposed a $5.7 million annual cost to operate the 311 system once it is established. Half of that expenditure was proposed to be generated from operating efficiencies, with the remaining amount to be raised through a possible tax increase.

Councillor B.C. Lee proposed that the ongoing budget for 311 should come from operational efficiencies in order to protect City taxpayers from potential tax increases to fund the program. His motion passed in a 6-5 vote.

“I am very pleased that we have found a way to protect taxpayers while significantly increasing the capability of our information infrastructure to provide better service and run City operations in a more efficient manner,” Councillor Lee said. “It has been demonstrated in other cities which implemented 311 that cost savings can be found through streamlining of operations over the long term.”
“The recent boil water advisory and snow storms in Vancouver have demonstrated the need to provide our citizens with immediate and efficient access to city services and information,” said Councillor Lee. He also outlined the benefits to citizens who speak English as a second language: “As a City committed to inclusivity, Vancouver can now walk the walk in terms of providing an exceptional level of service to our multicultural communities,” he said.

“By moving forward with 311, we will be joining other cities such as New York, Chicago, Calgary and Ottawa who have found the system to be beneficial not only for residents and businesses, but also tourists,” said Mayor Sullivan.

The implementation phase of 311 will be completed in Spring 2008 with the opening of a call centre, to which incoming general inquiries will be directed. Citizens will be able to dial “311” starting in 2009 and the system will continue to be phased in over the next four years as staff transition business processes and fully integrate the new technology.

The City of Vancouver receives approximately 1.4 million citizen requests by phone each year, which currently come in to more than 500 different numbers.