Agenda and draft minutes

Corporate Support Committee
Tuesday 28th September 2021 6.00 pm

Venue: Blue & Pink, Arun Civic Centre, Maltravers Road, Littlehampton, BN17 5LF. View directions

Contact: Jane Fulton & Carley Lavender 

Media

Items
No. Item

298.

Welcome

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed Members and Officers to the first physical meeting of the Corporate Support Committee.

 

A special welcome was extended to Councillor Warr as this was her first meeting having replaced Councillor Purchese on the Committee.

 

299.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for Absence had been received from Councillors Oppler and Roberts.

 

The Chair asked the Committee, and it approved, that Councillor Pendleton would act as Vice-Chair for this meeting.  

 

300.

Declarations of Interest

Members and Officers are invited to make any declaration of pecuniary, personal and/or prejudicial interests that they may have in relation to items on this agenda, and are reminded that they should re-declare their interest before consideration of the items or as soon as the interest becomes apparent.

 

Members and Officers should make their declaration by stating:

 

a)             the item they have the interest in

b)             whether it is a pecuniary/personal interest and/or prejudicial interest

c)             the nature of the interest

 

Minutes:

No Declaratins of Interest were made.

301.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 214 KB

The Committee will be asked to approve as a correct record the minutes of the corporate Support Committee held on 10 June 2021, as attached.

Minutes:

The minutes from the meeting of the Committee held on 10 June 2021 were approved by the Committee as a correct record and were signed by the Chair.

 

302.

Items not on the Agenda That the Chair of the Meeting is of the Opinion Should be Considered as a Matter of Urgency by Reasons of Special Circumstances

Minutes:

The Chair confirmed that he did have one urgent item to bring to the Committee’s attention. He had requested that a report be brought to this meeting  following a press story featured in the Littlehampton Gazette regarding staff redundancies. It was his view that Members should receive a report of explanation and to allow for Members to debate the item.  It has since been pointed out by the Chief Executive that this area did not fall under the remit of this Committee and would need to be referred to the Audit & Governance Committee.

 

Having been asked by a Member of the Committee why this report needed to be referred to the Audit & Governance Committee when the Corporate Support Committee had responsibility for Human Resources, the Interim Group Head of Corporate Support was asked to provide advice. She confirmed that this information was contained within the Council’s Statement of Accounts which fell under the remit of the Audit & Governance Committee.  Also, scrutiny of decisions in that area was also the remit of that Committee.  This Committee had responsibility for the consideration of and scrutiny of HR Policies. 

 

Following further discussion, the Chair confirmed that it was important for this item to be scrutinised and that he would leave to Officers to sort this being presented to a future meeting of the Audit & Governance Committee.

 

 

303.

Public question time

To receive questions from the public (for a period of up to 15 minutes)

Minutes:

            The Chair confirmed that no questions had been submitted for this meeting.

304.

Update on Progress with the Council's Digital Strategy pdf icon PDF 225 KB

The Councils Five Year Digital Strategy was adopted by Full Council approximately 18 months ago and this report is an update on progress so far and provides insight into the next phase of the programme.

Since starting delivery of the programme, we have been faced by a worldwide pandemic and in response to the changing landscape have re-focused some areas of the programme.

This report is an information update and the Committee is being asked to note the progress of the programme and its future direction.

 

Minutes:

The Chair invited the Head of Technology and Digital to present his report. He outlined that the Council’s Digital Strategy had been approved approximately 18 months ago and he provided an update on progress to date and an insight into the next phase of the programme.

 

Since the commencement of the delivery programme, the Council had faced a worldwide pandemic and in response to the changing landscape had had to refocus some areas of work. Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, there had been significant achievements made. Rolling out homeworking for all staff proved that the Council could operate differently and deliver more services digitally.  A programme called “Future Ways of Working” was looking at how the Council could take this work forward to maximise opportunities.  A new web site had been designed around how and why customers contacted the Council looking at usage trends, best practice and working with service colleagues across the Council. The new website was launched in July 2021 adding new interactive services. One of these had been the introduction of Webchat and a new on-line appointment booking system was planned. Looking at statistics, it could be seen that the number of visits to the website had increased by 40%, part of this could be related to Covid and partly due to the new website design. Other new developments were digital newsletters, allowing customers to sign up to receive regular updates and other sources of information. The Head of Technology and Digital explained that the pandemic had made it vital for the Council to work differently in ensuring that its buildings would be fit for the future.  New ways of working had seen the need to install video conferencing facilities in some meeting rooms to allow hybrid meetings to take place whilst still being able to host normal meetings.  As part of a county wide Government programme, around 25 of the Council’s buildings had been connected to new ultrafast gigabit capable fibre and work was progressing on connecting more public assets across the District to the same ultrafast network.

 

In terms of next steps and in addition to completing some of the projects already started, the Digital Team’s focus would be to continue to improve the website and developing more interactive services that would encourage further digital take-up.

 

Responding to the presentation received, there was no doubt that the improvements made would provide a huge benefit to the District and would save money. However, as one in five people in Arun had a disability, thought still needed to be given to those who were vulnerable and unable to access services by digital means. The need for some to be able to continue with face to face appointments was vital especially in resolving more complex issues. The Council also needed to consider this in light of the District’s increasing and very high ageing population and in recognising Arun’s high levels of deprivation. In view of this what contingency plans were in place for when IT  ...  view the full minutes text for item 304.

305.

Update on Progress with the Council's Cloud First Policy pdf icon PDF 232 KB

The Council’s Five-Year Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Services Strategy was adopted by Full Council approximately 2½ years ago and confirmed the adoption of a Cloud First Policy. This report is an update on progress so far and provides insight into the next phase of the programme.

This report is an information update, and the Committee are being asked to note the progress of the programme and its future direction.

 

Minutes:

The ICT & Digital Manager presented a report updating the Committee on progress made with the Council’s Cloud First Policy which had been adopted 2.5 years ago as part of the ICT Strategy. The following key highlights were provided:

 

·         The Cloud adoption process was still on target against the action plan in place despite the pandemic

·         So far the Council had successfully migrated six line of business applications to externally hosted solutions with four more already identified

·         £50k had been secured from Microsoft via the Council’s Licence Agreement to assist in the on-barding process to Microsoft Azure Cloud Tenancy

·         Cloud benefits were that the Council only paid for what it used, security was built-in improving resilience and business continuity.

·         Improved sustainability with current estimates showing a minimum 40% reduction in CO 2 emissions for systems deployed in the Cloud compared to on-premises

·         Achieving a cost neutral cloud migration

·         Finally, once completed a reduction of 79% in on-premises virtual server numbers.

 

The Chair asked that with the reduction in the number of servers in the IT suite whether this meant that there would be a reduction in the need to provide air conditioning to keep equipment cool and if so, had the solar panels on top of the Civic Centre made a difference and benefit for Arun.

 

Questions were asked about the link to Power Place in Chichester where data was backed up, had this been relinquished? It was explained currently this was planned for July and that the Council should be able to relinquish its racks from Power Place and that this formed part of its cost savings to fund its cloud first adoption. The  Council still needed to find a business continuity solution for those remaining on-premises servers that were critical to the operation of the Council as part of this process.  Also, phase 2 of the cloud adoption project would need to be completed before the Council could relinquish its presence in Power Place.  An overview was then provided to the Committee explaining the security issues of being in the Cloud and who and how regularly data was monitored and backed up.

 

            Following further discussion around security and the Cloud, the recommendation in the report was then proposed by Councillor Cooper and seconded by Councillor Clayden.

 

            The Committee

 

                        RESOLVED 

 

                        That the report be endorsed.

 

306.

Customer Services Annual Update - 2020/2021 pdf icon PDF 234 KB

This report provides Members with a brief overview of Customer Services.  It specifically considers the operation of the services over the last financial year ending March 2021 and identifies emerging trends of operation comparing this with the operation over the previous 3-5 years. 

 

The report looks in some detail at the numbers of customerscontacting and accessing services offered by the council either by phone by coming into the two reception areas or making inquiries using the Council’s website and webchat.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Customer Services Managers presented a report providing a brief overview of Customer Services. It considered the operation of the service over the last financial year ending March 2021 and identified emerging trends of operation comparing this with the operation over the previous 3-5 years.

 

The pandemic forced huge changes onto the team and with the help of IT, the whole team had been able to quickly work remotely.  On average, the Customer Services Team received 13,600 calls per month with only 16 staff taking these calls. The need for the Centre had not diminished during the pandemic. New rules and grants for businesses from the Government meant that there were many more enquiries with businesses and vulnerable customers requiring assistance. The Contact Centre had been fundamental in providing a first point of contact and resolution service for customers who might not have been able to contact the Council via other channels. 

 

The Contact Centre dealt with responding to voicemails and emails handling environmental health and cleansing enquiries via the online-portal and some social media responses as well. This has required the team to embrace new ways of working and find innovative solutions to deliver services. The Contact Centre had been keen to encourage customers to self-serve and utilise alternative channels to contact the Council and had been pleased to have been able to develop the new Webchat service which had been available for about 13 months. Since its implementation it had received 4,392 chats and plans were underway to develop this service further to include other service areas. Generally, customers had adapted well to new ways of working learning to access the Council’s services differently. With IT, the Centre had developed an online booking system and was utilising a workaround system for service areas such as housing, elections, and land charges to make appointments for their customers to come into the Civic Centre when a face to face appointment was needed.

 

The Chair asked how the Webchat service worked in terms of responding to chats received out of hours. It was explained that a set of questions were asked and answers provided for out of hours queries and that most of these questions would be answered correctly by the knowledge bot allowing customers to be able to access the service twenty four hours a day seven days a week. If it was not possible to provide an answer, the customer could request an email or telephone call response.

 

A Councillor raised concern that the Council offices were still not open to the public to walk into when other authorities across West Sussex were. It was explained that Reception areas both at the Civic Centre and Bognor Regis Town Hall had been available for customers to access housing services throughout the beginning of the pandemic.  Since 19 July 2021, when the Government had changed its restriction guidelines, the reception areas had been manned by staff to operate a meet and greet service where customers were signposted to other services online  ...  view the full minutes text for item 306.

307.

Budget 2022/23 - Process pdf icon PDF 157 KB

This report provides a summary of the Budget process for 2022/23 which the Committee is asked to note.

Minutes:

The Interim Group Head of Corporate Support and Section 151 Officer presented a report outlining a summary of the budget process for 2022/23 as this was the first budget to be completed under the new Committee system form of governance.

 

It was therefore important for all Members to be fully aware and understand how the Budget would be considered under the new structure, the process having been approved by the Corporate Policy & Performance Committee (CPPC) on 1 September 2021 involving the need for the budget to be considered by each Service Committee before the full budget would be considered by the CPPC on 10 February 2022 before approval by a Special Meeting of the Council on 23 February 2022.

 

It was accepted that within the resource constraints there would be the requirement for resource switching to address and enable the Council’s priorities to be progressed and to meet new statutory requirements. Any growth would need to be minimised and met from resource switching where possible. In view of the Council’s severely limited financial resources and limited officer time, any changes funded through resource switching would need to meet certain criteria with proposals aiming to be cost neutral, fully costed, and feasible to be deliverable for inclusion in the budget for 2022/23. A summary of budgets managed by this Committee and the outturn for 2020/21 had been provided in the Appendix to the report. The key dates for this Committee for the Budget 2022/23 process had also been provided.

 

The Committee then noted the budget setting process for 2022/23.

 

308.

Review of the Elections held on 6 May 2021 pdf icon PDF 288 KB

The report reviews the arrangements for the Elections which took place on 6 May 2021.   It provides information, feedback and considers lessons learned.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

In the absence of the Chief Executive, the Group Head of Policy presented a detailed report reviewing the arrangements that had been put into place for the Elections held on 6 May 2021 providing information, feedback and lessons learned. It was outlined that these had been the most complicated set of Elections that the Council had been responsible for delivering and administering due to the cancellation of Elections in 2020. Election planning had been very challenging especially given that there had been so much discussion about whether they would even take place. In view of the advanced planning required to arrange elections, planning had commenced in Autumn 2020 and had had to continue based on having at that time no news about a vaccination programme and during the peak of the pandemic. Planning had therefore continued based on the worst case scenario and upon receiving conflicting advice from different bodies.

 

Sections 1.9 to 1.13 of the report set out the staffing issues and the Group Head of Policy used this opportunity to again thank those staff members who had been prepared to work.  The report had included illustrations so that Councillors who had not had the opportunity to attend postal vote opening or the Count could see the extensive arrangements that had been put into place to maintain safe working.   The public had been strongly encouraged to use the postal vote option for voting and numbers had increased by 25% compared to previous years. The Group Head of Policy stated that it would be interesting to see any long term changes from trying different methods would be seen in the future.

 

A major challenge had been overcoming the difficulty in identifying polling stations as not all used previously were suitable for use under Covid-19 restrictions or following risk assessment did not meet the health and safety instructions issued by the Electoral Commission and other bodies. A reduction in staffing available also meant that not all of the polling stations could be used as there were not enough staff to man them. There had been a few voters who had complained about the location of their polling station, however, most of them had accepted the reason for change and had asked for reassurance that the normal polling stations would be used again in the future, and this had been confirmed.

 

A main change had been the use of tablets to access an electronic register. Although there had been an error with the tablets at the start of the poll with a very small number of electors being issued with ballot papers they were not entitled to, this had been quickly resolved. The reason for the problem was identified and work is  progressing with the tablet software company and the election management software company to ensure that this would not be repeated in the future.

 

The report set out the plans that had been put into place in organising the verification and counts for the elections which had been held over  ...  view the full minutes text for item 308.

309.

Outside Bodies

Minutes:

            There were no feedback reports from Outside Bodies to present to this meeting.

310.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 276 KB

A copy of the Committee’s Work Programme for the remainder of 2021/22 is attached for the Committee’s information.

Minutes:

The Committee received and noted its Work Programme covering the remainder of the Municipal Year.

 

            The Chair outlined that the work programme provided the Committee with an opportunity to drive innovation and change within the Council and so it needed to think carefully about suggesting appropriate items.   

 

            Having received no further suggestions, the Chair thanked Members for their input.