Agenda and minutes

Our Council Scrutiny Panel
Wednesday, 28th November, 2018 6.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 3 - Civic Centre

Contact: Earl Piggott-smith  Email: earl.piggott-smith@wolverhampton.gov.uk/01902 551251

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

Minutes:

Apologies were received from the following Cllrs:

 

Cllr Payal Bedi-Chadha

 

2.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest recorded

3.

Minutes of previous meeting (26.9.18) pdf icon PDF 94 KB

[To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record]

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting were confirmed subject to the suggested revised wording being changed, as being a correct record and signed by the Chair.

4.

Matters arising

[To consider any matters arising from the minutes]

Minutes:

Agenda Item 5: Treasury Management – Annual Report 2017-18

 

Claire Nye, Director of Finance, advised that there was no update at this time and further information would be presented to the panel on 6 February 2019.

 

5.

Confident, Capable Council Scrutiny Panel Work Programme - Draft Work Programme 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 65 KB

[Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer, to present report]

Minutes:

Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer,presented the draft work programme report for comment.

 

Resolved:

 

The panel agreed to establish a working group to review progress of changes to the customer services system. The following members agreed to be nominated to the working group:

 

Cllr Paula Brookfield

Cllr Jane Stevenson

Cllr Martin Waite

Cllr Bhupinder Gakhal

Cllr Milkinderpal Jaspal

6.

Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy 2019-2020 pdf icon PDF 71 KB

[Alison Shannon and Michelle Howell, to present report]

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Claire Nye, Director of Finance, presented the Draft Budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy report which sets out the financial position of the Council and work done to address the projected budget challenge. The Director of Finance commented that proposals classed as financial transactions and base budget revisions will be managed through internal processes. The panel were invited to comment on the budget reduction proposals and comment on the budget scrutiny process.

 

The panel discussed the value of their contributions about budget proposals and expressed some concern about the size of the report and the number of appendices which need to be considered and referenced to get a full understanding of the plan to achieve a balanced budget. The Director of Finance commented that the Council has a legal responsibility to set a balanced budget and that Councillors are consulted on the proposals. The Director of Finance agreed to consider ideas for making the information more manageable as part of the budget consultation review.

 

Louise Miles, Cabinet Member for Resources, commented that the public had been invited as part of the budget consultation process to say how they would like to be consulted in the future. The Cabinet Member for Resources advised that there had been discussions with Chair of Scrutiny Board about the role of scrutiny members in the budget scrutiny process, which may include looking at the whole budget, rather than on the basis of Cabinet portfolio responsibility.

 

The panel commented on the current arrangements where panels scrutinise budget proposals within their remit and suggested that a different approach was needed to understand the impact on the Council as a whole, to have a more effective budget scrutiny process.

 

The panel commented about the lack of detail about the implications of savings proposals and the presentation of figures which do not properly explain the difference between a budget reduction or an income generation idea.

 

The panel commented on the remit of the panel which requires a different approach to the budget scrutiny process to understand the implications of proposed changes on how services are delivered in the future. The panel discussed the list of risks detailed in Table 3 of the report and suggested there was a need to explore them in more detail to better understand the impact on policy and service delivery. The panel considered that the current information makes it difficult to understand how key risks were considered during the budget process and other cross cutting issues.

 

The Director of Finance agreed to consider how to present the information about risks associated to the medium-term financial strategy to meet the concerns of the panel in future reports about the budget.

 

 

 

The Cabinet Member for Resources commented on the overall poor level of

attendance at the public budget consultation events and further thought would be given to what could be done to improve the situation.

 

The Cabinet Member for Resources praised the positive meeting with members of Wolverhampton Youth Council as part of the budget consultation  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Customer Services Journey pdf icon PDF 217 KB

[Andy Moran, Director of Commercial Services, to present report]

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Andy Moran, Director of Commercial Services, gave a short presentation about the performance of the customer services and the changes made to the service. The Director of Commercial Services advised the panel that Lisa Taylor, had recently been appointed to the post of Head of Customer Services as part the new strategy. The Director of Commercial Services gave an update on the proposed customer services operating model designed to respond to concerns about the performance. The Director of Commercial Services advised that the panel that the new system would categorise customer enquiries which can be fulfilled through self-service and those more complex enquiries would be dealt with separately. The panel were advised that the council receive 50,000 calls a month and that the current model was not sustainable in the long term in managing this level of customer contact.

 

The Director of Commercial Services advised the panel of a range of process changes made to support the new operating model, for example, re-organising the customer services team and also future changes, for example, the potential for using Skype to deal with planning enquiries more quickly.

 

The Director of Commercial Services advised the panel that an important part of the process is to have a single record for every customer rather than multiple records for the same person held by different service areas, relating to other enquiries.

 

The Director of Commercial Services commented on the technology being introduced to support this change, which would allow the customer to check progress and reduce the number of calls to the Council. The new customer system would help to avoid unnecessary duplication of similar types of enquiries and reduce the number of enquiries in the new process. The system would be provided with new functionality and supported by a reduction in the current number of 1700 web pages. The content on council web pages is being reviewed to further support this work.

 

The panel were advised that work is being done to get more people to deal with telephone enquiries in response to the difficulties highlighted in the report.

 

The panel commented that the current call back system is not working and gave examples of complaints received from residents. The Director of Commercial Services accepted the frustration experienced by customers and explained that work was being done to introduce changes from April 2019 to the telephone system which would provide a better response.

 

The panel criticised the poor performance of the customer services as detailed in the report in terms of the length of time taken to answer calls and the number of calls not answered. The panel commented that previous assurances given to them that planned changes would  provide a better customer service experience had not been delivered, despite considerable investment over many years.

The Director of Commercial Services accepted the criticism of the previous changes but added that it was necessary to install the base systems in order to deliver a better service that can work together more efficiently.

 

The panel discussed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Strategic Procurement Update - briefing paper pdf icon PDF 344 KB

[Andy Moran, Director of Commercial Services, to present briefing paper]

Minutes:

Allison Robertson, Head of Procurement, gave an update on the work of the service and to manage issues relating to the impact and risks arising from Brexit. The Head of Procurement commented on the work done to maximise the impact of money spent with third parties that benefit the local economy.

 

The Head of Procurement gave examples of work being done to give local people employment and training opportunities through the contract tendering process.

 

The Head of Procurement briefed the panel on the contingency arrangements made to minimise any possible distribution. The Head of Procurement added that the suppliers were being asked to provide details of their contingency arrangements and how they plan to manage risks.

 

The panel welcomed the report and the work being done with other strategic partners to deliver better social value when commissioning services and the benefits to local business and residents.

 

Resolved:

            The panel agreed to note the progress.

9.

Print and Design Service (report to follow) pdf icon PDF 89 KB

[Gail Rider, Head of ICT, to present report]

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Gail Rider, Head of ICT, gave a short presentation about the changes introduced to Digital Print Solutions (DPS) since 2017 to the service and a summary of the earlier tour of the area that was arranged before the meeting for members of the panel.

 

The Head of ICT gave a summary of the progress made since a report proposing a series of the changes to the service was presented to the Cabinet (Resources) Panel in 2017.

 

The Head of ICT recommended that the panel support the proposal that all print requirements are directed to the internal DPS team first before considering using an outside contractor.

 

The Head of ICT reported that based on analysis an estimated £116,000 has been spent with external suppliers in the last 12 months and there was a view that a high percentage of this spend could have been completed by DPS.

 

The Head of ICT commented on the positive response from the employees in the section to the changes that have been introduced. The panel expressed concerns about the poor state of the rest room area and the wanted to improvements to the facilities.

 

The panel thanked the Head of ICT for the report and presentation and the excellent progress since being appointed. The panel discussed the legality of the service undertaking printing work for third party organisations. The panel discussed that this could be possible if the service was acting as a trading company but accepted that there were legal requirements and other financial considerations that would have to be met before progress could be made.

 

The panel queried the reference made in the report about third parties paying enhanced charges and considered that this was unlikely to be achieved and further details were needed about how this could be done in such a competitive market.

 

The panel thanked the Head of ICT for the presentation.

 

Resolved:

1.    The Head of ICT to present a report to panel meeting on 6 February 2018 about the feasibility of establishing DPS as a trading company and recommendations.

2.    The Head of ICT to lead work to undertake detailed market research about the competitiveness of the current service and use of external printing services and report the findings to panel meeting on 10 April 2018.

3.    The Director of Finance to discuss with Cabinet a refurbishment of the employee rest area in the DPS and report findings to a panel meeting on 10 April 2019.