Capita, BBC and your TV Licence

The trend within large corporations is now to sub-contract services to other agencies. When the Labour government continued its crusade to destroy the Post Offices in Britain the handling of the BBC licence was passed over to a highly profitable organisation called Capita which operates as TV Licensing for this aspect of its work. Capita has fingers in many profitable pies. It picks up a cool £500 million for TV licences alone. The decision to spend such huge sums by the BBC was partly to chase up licence dodgers. Capita’s success has been less than impressive reducing the loss of revenue from this by a mere 0.5%.

This is not the only contract it holds for the BBC i.e. us the licence payers. Capita also handles its audience research for a nice £54 million.

Alas Capita was accused of heavy-handed dealings with the public and a review of its practises was published by the BBC Trust in 2009. In it were concerns over the tone of letters sent out to the public by Capita and an action plan agreed with BBC executives to rectify the way it handles the corporation’s affairs.

The BBC executive was told it had to :
…continue to work with Capita, who maintain the database, to assess the quality of the information stored on the database. Key performance indicators should be introduced which will allow the BBC to measure how accurately information is being recorded.
…provide an audit report on the work being carried out with Capita on the ongoing programme of development and improvement to the database and the systems surrounding it.

This sounds as though there was some slackness in the BBC’s overseeing of Capita.
…Requirements are detailed on our current letters and we will review all communications which go direct to customers (e.g. our letters and the TV Licensing website)

There were particular concerns over the aggressive tone used by Capita in letters to non-TV households. It was also proposed that cheaper telephone numbers replaced expensive ones for members of the public who had to phone the agency.
…The prominence of messages in letters will be improved for those not requiring a TV Licence (as per previous recommendation).

Now this suggests some tardiness on the part of Capita and given their latest standard reminders for the TV licence, something Capita has yet to implement.

If you do not pay your BBC licence by Direct Debit you will receive a reminder from Capita that is a hard sell for signing up to Direct Debit payments. Over the double-sided letter there is no mention of alternative methods of paying the BBC licence. There is mention of their website, phone number and postal address as well as the handy form at the bottom of the page – so you can set up your Direct Debit.

So what happens if you choose not to pay by DD? Where do you go for information about other methods? Are there other methods? Yes, for those with a computer you will be amazed to discover just how many.

There is, of course, Direct Debit. Sorry, what was that? Direct Debit. And, you can pay at a ‘ PayPoint outlet and pay by cash or debit card. Trouble is you have to have a computer to find out where your nearest PayPoint is because in the good old days that was called a Post Office but they are not allowed to handle BBC licences any more so good luck. You might want to pay by savings card or with a cheque or Postal Order – hey isn’t that from a Post Office?

So, if all these methods of payment are available, why aren’t they included in the reminder sent out by Capita? We should be told because we are paying through the nose for their sub-standard service.

Whatever happened to choice? Capita is pushing and kicking BBC licence payers into signing up for Direct Debits instead of arming us with full information.
More information can be had from Catherine Graves at the BBC Licence Fee Unit, Room 4436, BBC White City, 201 Wood Lane, London W12 7TS.
And details of the BBC Trust report can be found at :

24 Comments to “Capita, BBC and your TV Licence”

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Jay. Yes, I would say that (and, of course, I didn’t try to hide the fact I work for PayPoint) but all the information I gave was easily verifiable. I know it’s easy to claim ‘public sector good, private sector bad’ but it is the private sector that creates the wealth that funds the public sector through its taxes (at least those companies that don’t exploit the tax system through dubious overseas holdings). All the building works at the Olympics were carried out by private sector companies. Bar a very few cases – one for security springs to mind – they all worked very well because there was a very close relationship between the very professional public sector client (LOCOG) and the private sector contractor which managed the contracts tightly. And what a great success they were! If both parties know exactly what is expected of them and how to deal with things like specification changes, such partnerships generally work and can be highly cost effective. Obviously, not always, as the Public/Private Partnerships for hospital and school building projects so beloved by Gordon Brown have shown.

    • What a simple wee world you inhabit. Private = created wealth/Public = subsidy jukies. All cobblers of course.
      Problem with much of the private is it gets preferential treatment and – the dreaded subsidies.

      Off the top of my head private companies which couldn’t succeed without public subsides and preferential treatment such as direct government links to procurement – rail companies, arms and defence systems, nuclear, wind energy, banks.

      I don’t know what happened with the Olympics in England but when the torch was taken through areas of Scotland, local businesses were prevented from operating within their own areas because of the ruthless and unfair practices of the Olympic sponsors which meant that local authorities were left to pick up the costs of this spectacle which could have been covered had local companies been able to operate and donate funds. Ah, the freedom of the market.

  2. Peter should receive an ‘Employee of the Year’ award from PayPoint for following and replying so conscientiously to this thread. On the other hand, he is employed by PayPoint so ‘would say that, wouldn’t he’.

    Capita is just another of the many shady companies who have been handed lucrative contracts by both Labour and Conservative governments. In many cases they have grown from zero to huge in just a few years – which seldom happens to ‘genuine’ free market companies who don’t get handed such one-sided deals.

    I regret very much that nobody seems to challenge the idea that ‘Private is always better than Public’. You might expect the unions or the Labour party to do hard research to compare how much we are spending and receiving on all our various services now compared to 30 years ago when many were in the public sector, but there seems little evidence of this taking place- I guess that’s what happens when you feel you have to follow the ‘All taxes are bad’ mantra.

    I would find it hard to believe that after paying the lucrative fees of PayPoint, Capita, Serco and all the other mobs around we were paying less and getting more in the way of service. Far more likely that my own experience – we are paying more and getting less – is the common reality.

    With the recent success of the 2012 Olympics, one might have expected someone to point out that it was a great example of what could be achieved if enough public money (via taxes) was invested in an event. So far, I haven’t heard anyone make that connection – probably because it would raise a few awkward questions.

    • I suspect there is a lot of behind-the-scenes activity which people like myself are unaware of regarding companies contracted to operate what used to be publicly run and while I would be the first to acknowledge not all public operations are satisfactory there are questions regarding what the line between efficiency and public service.

      There can be no argument that in Britain today the disappearance of ‘local’ and the emergence of centralisation is a backward step as far as providing public services is concerned. The old and vulnerable find life much harder now than a couple of decades ago. Who cares? Not people who work within organisations making money hand-over-fist from government contracts. Their justifications for their existence is efficiency. And you know – it’s not that efficient – the old post office, close to where people lived was an efficient system. We knew where we were and what it provided. Now nothing’s obvious and the post office is having more and more of its services removed so they can be closed down without too much public reaction.

      All in the name of progress – and profit. We provide the profit.

      • That ‘efficient’ Post Office received £1.7 BILLION in public subsidy between 2006 and 2010 and will receive another £1.34 BILLION from 2011 to 2014. So it’s either not efficient at all or people don’t actually want/need to use it. At the same time, the post office network has shrunk to less than 11,000 (including branches open for a few hours a week) while the unsubsidised PayPoint has grown to 24,000 branches because we provide an efficient service so it’s a lot easier for the old and vulnerable to find and use a PayPoint than a post office almost anywhere (we don’t charge customers to use our terminals, by the way, and less than 1% of our business is from government contracts).

        There are some things the public sector does better, some things the private sector does better and some things that are done better with the two working together. Some public sector departments and agencies are hopeless wasters of public money; some aren’t. Some private sector companies are greedy, inefficient and poor at customer service; others are the exact opposite. It’s no good generalising and we can probably all think of examples in each category.

      • When a service, any service is run down, as the Post Office has been – it will lose customers. With the loss of 7000 Post Offices in 10 years, and the loss for Post Offices of many of its former functions there is an inevitability over this continuing.

        You clearly speak to different sets of people from me. It is a common complaint that having the Post Office as the local and obvious place to carry out transactions such as buying car and TV licences as well as pension payments dealing is in rapid decline. If people can’t find a Post Office and where the government is employing all kinds of tactics such as offering prizes for people to renew licences online then it is clear what the future is for this, often essential service.

        Taxes are paid by us all – except the richest but certainly the poor don’t get away with tax evasion – precisely for the government to provide us with good quality services which enhance society. This is not what private companies are in the business of doing. They are designed firstly to make money and pay dividends to shareholders. You are clearly at home with this concept. Some of us care for others as well as ourselves.

        We pay taxes to get benefits from them – this is what they are collected for. In your logic we shouldn’t subsidise schools.Taxes are not bad, they are essential in a progressive society.

        There are different notions about civil society and how we should care for and treat citizens. You have made your position very clear.

      • You’ve done it again – “This is not what private companies are in the business of doing” – generalising that all private sector is bad. I did make my position perfectly clear. Or thought I had. My position is that there are good and bad in both camps and that private and public sectors can both deliver good services efficiently – and both can also act against the public interest. I have no objection to paying taxes and dislike intensely companies and wealthy people who evade them. What’s wrong with doing things online, whether that be renewing my car tax, paying my taxes, banking, buying a book or topping up my son’s school meal card? It’s choice and it’s progress, at least, of a sort. Yes, I know jobs have been lost by the growth of the internet, but many thousands have been created as well and new industries have sprung up as a result. I don’t see how you can equte the Post Office subsidy with public funding of schools. How can you equate the post office with education, security, defence, border control, health and all those other things that the many acting together are infinitely more effective than individuals acting on their own? The Post office is a business, run, nowadays by businesspeople from the private sector (the CEO came from Argos).

      • What’s wrong with doing things online is that there are thousands, probably millions who have no access to the internet. Who cares? Not those who say just do it online.

        Post Offices still provide a vital social as well as business services for lots of little communities around this country. You might not value this but there are others who do and recognise that we live within a society where relationships are important. Virtual services fail to replicate the extent of service that many of us experience through our Post Offices.

        Choice? Only up to a point Lord Copper.

      • But it’s still a choice. If people are happy to use the internet, they can use it. If they prefer the personal service of a real place to go, such as the Post Office or a PayPoint, then that is still available to them – and that is how it should be. What would be wrong is to deny people that choice. Most government services offer people the choices of internet, letter, phone or in person, so the vast majority of people can choose what is easiest and most convenient for them.

      • Are there a lot of people out in the world like you?

        Choices, choices. How many people in this country do not have a computer far less the internet?

        Where do you stay? A town? A city?

        What about people in rural areas without access to the internet? There are areas around here where there is no internet access. Choice?

        What about the elderly who feel incapable of working a computer? They don’t matter I take it – they have a choice to go somewhere else – never mind the somewhere else places are more difficult for them to find.

        Once services are withdrawn from Post Offices there is clearly no choice but to use paypoint.

        I know plenty examples where Post Offices have been shut and older people become wholly dependent on family and friends to carry out their financial business. Try telling them they have choice.

        What about the poor? Do they have the choices you have? Do they have fewer choices or do they have no choices?

        The concept of ‘choice’ is the final resort of aggressive capitalism. The choice being – take it or leave it.

        You have the choice to use my blog – or leave it.

  3. They are all working. GT News is about 200m away from Danum News by the Frenchgate Shopping Centre and bus station. I’m sorry it and the others are so inconvenient for you but I really do feel that we have pretty good coverage in Doncaster, even in the town centre.

  4. Thanks for the link. I think one of those establishments now no longer offers a service. Although the others are quite close to me, they’re not in the town centre and would require that I make a specific journey to visit them.

  5. If you go on our store locator (, you will see another four PayPoint stores listed within one-third of a mile of Danum News. Then there are the other 117 in the Doncaster Metroplitan District area. Danum News reported a fault in early January and we replaced the machine. No faults have been reported since.

  6. Danum Newsagent on High St.. The only other terminal is at the newsagent’s in the bus station. This is not very good coverage for a town the size of Doncaster.

  7. Lee – the numbers were compiled last Friday from all our live, transacting sites. We do lose some shops with terminals but the UK total increased by well over 300 between April and July, even accounting for closures. In May 2009, we had 111 terminals in the Doncaster Metropolitan District area, so the number has grown there as well. Which machine keeps not working?

  8. Peter, I suspect these figures are somewhat out of date. During the last couple of years I’m aware of four PayPoint terminals that have closed in the town centre.

  9. Lee, I obviously don’t know whereabouts in Doncaster you are so I don’t know the nearest of PayPoint to you. I do know, however, that the two Doncaster consituencies have, between them, 88 shops with PayPoint, compared with 36 post offices, while there are 122 shops with PayPoint in the Doncaster Metroplitan District area, compared with 54 post offices. We haven’t had any broken terminals reported in Doncaster recently but if you let me know ( where the PayPoint machine that doesn’t work is, I’ll make sure it’s fixed or replaced.

  10. I live in Doncaster and there only two outlets where I can pay my TV licence; and at one of the premises the PayPoint machine more often than not doesn’t work.

  11. Hi again Peter or can I call you PPP?

    Don’t think I understand the difference between PP and PayPoint but never mind.

    I do understand that Pay Point is a highly successful organisation which has earned itself a bit of criticism over its persuasive policy of eliminating rivals from retail outlets and became the target of criticism from MPs over PayPoint not providing free cash services in remote areas.

    A superficial trawl through the internet turns up many items on PayPoint including:

    ‘During a session of the Commons business and enterprise committee, Lindsay Hoyle (Lab, Chorley) accused the heads of PayPoint of failing to provide money services in rural areas.’

    On the row that as more and more bank – and Post Office – branches close people are being forced to pay to get at their own money:-

    ‘And Anne Moffat (Lab, East Lothian) stated that PayPoint had a “captive audience” and should look at the viability of free cash.

    Dominic Taylor (Chief Executive of PayPoint) accused the current subsidies to the Post Office of not being “transparent” or targeted to specific outlets. He suggested that this was of “significant levels of concern”.

    ‘… representatives from Consumer Focus, Age Concern and the Citizens Advice Bureau all agreed that there had to be a continued role for the Post Offices in the community.’

    ‘… now was the time to investigate the impact of Post Office closures, stating that the Bureau (Citizens Advice) was starting to see people suffer as a result.’

    ‘And Mervyn Kohler, special adviser to the soon-to-be merged Age Concern and Help the Aged, warned that a “blanket withdrawal” of form-filling from Post Offices would be a “step too far” for older people without a computer.

    “The world will change but it is changing rather faster than an older population would like it to,” he suggested to MPs.’

    It is self-evident that there is no turning back to the days of Post Office service. The last Labour government under Gordon Brown drove through such damaging cuts up and down the country in its determination to be the Party of private enterprise – it has created a climate that companies such as PayPoint can reap enormous profits from what ought to be government revenue. This is revenue that comes from tax payers and belongs to the services provided in return to tax payers.

    Perhaps my point of view has something to do with being Scottish. Scotland is a country in which the people are more in tune with collectivist nature of Scottish society. Thatcher’s pronouncement that there was no such thing as society might have rung bells with people in parts of England but only alarm bells in Scotland. We all should take responsibility for each other. Post Offices provided the elderly, disabled, families with young children, the disadvantaged an easy and obvious means of managing their own affairs. Opening up some of these services to private companies whose motivation is profit ahead of service is hugely detrimental. Survival of the fittest indeed – the cruel dogma of private enterprise.

    PayPoint, irrespective of its claims, does not provide the social value to communities that Post Offices do. While it is undoubtedly true that fewer people are using them that is because so many of their services have been withdrawn and handed over to private companies. Obviously when there are fewer reasons to go into a Post Office…not rocket science. It has nothing to do with Post Office supporters not using them – naturally where the Post Office still has something to offer, such as sending mail, parcels, for those of us who still do, paying car tax, buying currency etc – we will use our Post Offices. It’s a strange idea that you seem to have that they are the enemy although from the Post Office’s perspective I can see that your organisation is just that.

    Where there were long queues, and yes there were, still are at times, it is precisely because the PO has something people need. If posting my mail was being done at the fag kiosk in my local Co-op do you think there would be no queues there? There are always queues in the shop – PayPoint increases queuing time. I would much rather go into my PO where the staff are knowledgeable and friendly than the often indifferent and easily confused staff at the Co-op.

    Isn’t it rich for young(ish) business types to casually suggest everyone uses email, the internet. Why do you want to limit the choices people have? Why force people to use technology they are not familiar with or not comfortable with or prefer not to use? Why do you, someone in work, want to relegate more and more people to the dole queues by shutting Post Offices and suggesting we all do everything online? Will you be happy to pay increased taxes to keep people on the dole?

    When you say, ‘we taxpayers’ – you mean everyone in the UK. We are all tax payers – VAT.

    Yes Post Offices are subsidised now they have fewer services to offer. Our money subsidises all kinds of industries, not least the banks. How many billion?

    I agree the consumer is important. I think people are important – I don’t just see people as consumers. Your concern about the poor people who wander the streets through cold, winter days looking for PP outlets is disingenuous. I think I would rather take my chances with the good men and women of the Post Office than one of your non-human outlets any day. Crocodile tears about pensioners indeed.

  12. Hi Lena
    I’m on a coffee break so have time to reply again. Logo is ‘PP’, company is PayPoint. They’re different.

    If you don’t need a PayPoint outlet, you won’t be looking for one, so probably won’t notice the logo. I didn’t. But if you are looking for one, you are much more likely to. At nearly a meter square, you shouldn’t fail to do so (unless you’re on your way to Specsavers, perhaps).

    Why should you have to pay for a TV licence in a Post Office? Clue’s in the name. The Post Office was set up to handle letters, packages and parcels to put in the post. What has payments got to do with that?

    The reason so many Post Offices have closed is that people stopped using them, even those who protest so much when they are threatened with closure. Long queues, slow service, inconvenient opening hours. Much easier to send an email, use the internet to buy your road tax or pay a bill at a local neighbourhood shop on the way home from work. We taxpayers give almost £200 MILLION a year to keep Post Offices open.

    Isn’t the consumer important these days? Ever tried topping up an electricity pre-pay meter at 5.00pm on a Saturday afternoon at a Post Office on a cold, wintry February afternoon? Good job we don’t have to rely on them as they’ll leave you to freeze until Monday morning. Lucky pensioner. Lucky mum with her new baby.

    Finished my coffee so back to work.

  13. Hi Peter

    Great to know there are people so happy at their work out there that they take the time to respond to the views of a disillusioned grumpy blogger.

    While I don’t doubt PayPoint shops do display ‘very distinctive yellow and purple signs outside their shops’ these signs would have to be fully interactive – jumping off the wall and slapping me around my cranky old face to get my attention – because curiously I tend not to notice signs and posters as I enter retail outlets. Do you? Really? I suppose you might look out for the very distinctive yellow and purple . . . to feel that warm glow of satisfaction when a fellow shopper stands back to admire it and you have the quiet satisfaction of knowing you are its responsible for their lovely moment.

    I do like the ‘PP’. Very modern, dear.

    And half a metre square. I really must get down to Specsavers. And so many – I think I might be beyond the skills of Specsavers come to think of it.

    I’m beginning to see, with those long opening hours, just how convenient PayPoints, sorry PPs are. Silly me for thinking that Post Offices were the obvious places for purchasing official documents such as licences, how mistaken, the most obvious places for such transactions are, of course, garage forecourts.

    I had no idea there were so few Post Office branches remaining – 11,500 for the whole of the UK? How did that happen? Why so few for such a huge area? Oh, of course , being less convenient than garage forecourts, well, they probably are now there are so few of them left, and such truncated hours of operating – when the British public likes nothing better than to nip out at 10 in the evening to buy their TV licences.

    PayPoint, sorry PP, has given us more choice, I see that, or well not more choice, different, not quite as obvious but there you go.

    I agree rural Post Offices are in dire straits. Why do you think that might be? Is it because large chunks of their business have been taken away and handed over to garage forecourts by any chance?

    Take away the breadth of service, reduce the footfall, record the lack of patronage and you’ve justified closure.

    Hard luck, too for those busy shop assistants who roll their eyes and complain that they are not Post Office employees when asked to renew a TV licence.

    Hard luck, as well, to all of us who understood that when a company plays the convenience or greater choice card you can be sure it is designed to boost its profits while reducing the actual level of service to the consumer in the pursuit of greater and greater profits for shareholders.

    But, half a metre! Incredible!

  14. Hi

    PayPoint shops have a very distinctive yellow and purple sign on the wall outside the shops, with the ‘PP’ logo to identify that there’s a PayPoint there if you can’t get to the online locator ( The sign is almost half a metre square. There are more than 22,000 of them throughout the country in convenience stores, newsagents, supermarkets, garage forecourts and off-licences. The vast majority of them are open from early morning (often 6.00am) to late evening (often up to 10.00pm or even 11.00pm) seven days a week including bank holidays.

    Compare that with the Post Office, with just 11,500 branches, most open from 09.00am to 5.30pm Mon-Fri and to 12.30 Sat. Many, especially in rural areas, only open a few hours a day for two or three hours a week. Hard luck if you need to renew your licence and can’t get to a post office during the week because you’re at work. Or if you realise you need to renew it on Sturday afternnon of a bank holiday. In some places, PayPoints are so local that they outnumber post offices by four or five times to one.

    So which is more convenient?

  15. Hi Lyn-Marie

    You’ve had a horrible time of it.

    Your experience highlights the detrimental impact of having huge organisations such as Capita taking public funds to swell their profits while providing a shoddy service in return.

    If you can be bothered, you could complain to the Catherine Graves at the BBC Licence Fee Unit, Room 4436, BBC White City, 201 Wood Lane, London W12 7TS and/or contacting the BBC Trust which has been looking at the licence.

    The Trust’s website page for licences is:


  16. Hi.

    You cannot pay by savings card for your first licence. You have to have at least three months left on your current licence to qualify and heaven help anyone who tries to move from one payment method onto this one, all you get are long winded, very complex reasons why you cannot have a savings card. I tried to get a savings card on several occassions and each time got refused. I did get some long winded explanation and I still cannot work out why I could not get one, and it seems the story and the rules change every time you ask for one. I may get one some day; it would certainly help as with the payment card, I am actually paying more each month than I did when I paid by direct debit. It is just easier as I tend to have accidents, and lots of them with direct debits, but a savings card is better.

    I am not sure what the current rules are, but if they did not take three lots of direct debit at the same time, then may-be I too would sign up for one. Since I get paid every two weeks, they do not get the money until I get paid and I tell them to get lost. I actually got told today that you can still pay monthly, even if they have made a mistake and put you on a weekly scheme. However, as I am one week behind, they cannot put me on a monthly card until this one is used up. So they still send out stupid letters saying I am behind, even if I pay monthly. What an outfit!

    Oh, and by the way we are also being taken to court for actually being legally licenced. How is that database doing?



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