Venue: Surrey Heath House
Contact: Andrew Crawford Democratic Services Officer
The Chairman welcomed Councillor Josephine Hawkins, the Corporate Portfolio Holder and reminded Members of the areas under the remit of her Portfolio. He also welcomed Louise Livingston and Richard Payne, the Executive Heads of Transformation and Corporate respectively.
The Chairman reported that a Facebook community page had been opened for the Committee, to encourage the public to engage more with the scrutiny function. He encouraged Members to ‘like’ the page and refer people to it.
To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 30 September 2015.
The minutes of the meeting held on the 30 September 2015 were agreed and signed by the Chairman.
Councillor Josephine Hawkins reported that she had held the Corporate Portfolio for 6 months. She briefed Members on the various areas covered by her Portfolio, focussing in particular on the following:
• Children Champion
• Community Grants
• Complaints Procedure/ Ombudsman Matters
• Communications & Marketing
• Contact Centre
• Democratic Services
• Human Resources
• Post & Payments
Councillor Hawkins, in her presentation to Members and responses to Member questions, highlighted the following:
(i) Charities – Although a number of charities fell within her Portfolio, these were not executive functions and she kept a watching brief only on each.
In specific terms, it was noted that the Citizens Advice Bureau received a grant of £80,000 per annum from the Council, in addition to accommodation. It also received assistance from the Frimley Fuel Allotments Charity.
(ii) Contact Centre – A new telephony system was being introduced with a ‘Golden Number’. All calls would go through this single number and thereafter be routed to the most appropriate Customer Services Advisor to resolve. Contact Centre staff were learning new skills to enable them to take on further responsibilities. Members would still be able to contact specific officers directly.
New technologies were being investigated for postal processes including hybrid mail, when all correspondence is sent electronically to an external company which could send out post at a significantly reduced cost. There were further options to be explored on e-mails and scanning.
The usage of the Contact Centre had been significantly expanded with Surrey Police and more recently, The Department of Works and Pensions Job Centres Plus having a notable presence.
The Executive Head of Corporate was asked to circulate to Members the contact centre data referred to during the Portfolio Holder’s presentation.
(iii) Democratic and Electoral Services – A new Committee Management System, Modern.Gov, had been introduced allowing Members to use IPads, markedly reducing the number of hard copy issues of agendas and papers.
Democratic and Electoral Services had been integrated and the transition to Individual Electoral Registration had been completed. The next election would be in May 2016, for the Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). The previous election, which had incorporated National, Borough and Parish elections, had proved a great success, with staff from all areas of the Council being involved.
In the PCC elections, the Electoral Commission would prescribe the format of the voting sheets. It had not, as yet, proposed any electronic voting or automated counting processes.
The Local Government Boundary Commission would commence a review of the Borough in 2016, looking first at the number of Councillors, then reviewing Ward Boundaries on the basis of their findings.
A Council-wide proposal would be developed by June 2016, with the Commission making any decisions in July 2016. Any changes would then be implemented from May 2019.
(iv) Media and Marketing – A new website had gone live recently, with 200,000 visitors per Quarter. Electronic payment of bills had increased by 11%, with 4,901 transactions between July ... view the full minutes text for item 22/PF
The Executive Head of Transformation presented a report on work done in 2015 to meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and the Council’s Equality Strategy, as well as demonstrating compliance with the General Equality Duty, through equality impact assessments. Specifically, in relation to 2015, she highlighted the following:
§ Officer and Member dementia awareness training undertaken;
§ The opening of the Wellbeing (Dementia) Centre and development of the Memory Garden;
§ The establishment of the Saturday Club at Windle Valley Centre for carers and the cared for with dementia;
§ Capital works have been progressed to make improvements to the gypsy/traveller sites;
§ Surrey Heath Faith Forum Lunch held 18 November 2015;
§ The appointment of an internal voluntary minority ethnic group staff representative; and
§ The appointment of two internal voluntary staff disability mentors.
Equality Impact Assessments had been undertaken on disciplinary, grievance, data protection, smoking and exceptional payments policies.
As previously reported, the Council had achieved a 2 Ticks accreditation, from Job Centres Plus, as a Disability Positive Employer.
Members welcomed developments at the Windle Valley Centre which was considered to be a wonderful asset to both Bagshot and the whole of the Borough.
The Committee considered official Gypsy and Traveller sites in the Borough, noting that, although an additional pitch had been proposed at the Kalima site in Chobham, additional demand had been recognised. The provision of additional pitches was a matter that was under review by Regulatory Services as part of Planning Policy.
Resolved that the update on work to meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and the Council’s Equality Strategy and Action Plan be noted.
Report to follow.
The Executive Head of Corporate explained the different stages in the Council’s Complaints processes, noting that most complaints received were successfully concluded informally under Stage 1 of the Policy. With 87,000 residents, 21 complaints had progressed to Stage 2 of the Policy, a slight increase from 17 in 2014/15.
Of the 21 Stage 2 complaints, 11 had been found to be unjustified, 7 had been partly justified and 3 had been justified.
The main area for complaints had been in the Regulatory area, but, in terms of planning applications determined, the Executive Head of Regulatory reported that complaints had been received on less than 1% of all planning applications.
In the previous year, within the Planning process, 15 complaints, on investigation, had been found to be unjustified, 4 had been partly justified due to an incorrect response or the complainant not receiving a response within the laid down timescales, with only 2 complaints unresolved. The Service viewed complaints as an opportunity to improve, an example being response times in relation to tree issues, which had been identified as slow, but, with training, the Contact Centre had been able to pick up some of the work, thus improving the overall response.
The Local Government Ombudsman had received 6 complaints and enquiries in 2014/15 relating to Surrey Heath Borough Council. Of those, one was upheld, one was not upheld, one was closed after initial enquiries and 3 were referred back for local resolution. There had been no financial implications to the Council.
The Executive Head of Corporate agreed to investigate which complaints were referred back, in relation to which service, what actions had been taken to resolve the complaints locally and what outcomes were achieved.
Members welcomed the low number of Stage 2 formal complaints and those referred to the Local Government Ombudsman and particularly welcomed the approach of using complaints as an opportunity to improve services. It was noted that very few complaints were upheld, either fully or in part.
Resolved, that the Stage 2 & 3 Complaints position and that on Complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman be noted and the Officers be congratulated on the outcomes thereof.
The work programme for the remainder of the municipal year 2015/16 attached at Annex A, as amended was considered and agreed by the Committee.
Resolved, that the work programme as amended and attached at Annex A, be agreed.