[To consider a briefing note on Digital Technology in City Environment].
The Head of Environmental Services gave a summary presentation of the report titled “Digital Technology in City Environment,” which had been despatched with the agenda for the meeting.
The Portfolio Holder for City Environment commented that there were considerable services within the Directorate that were already digitally connected. The key was to ensure simplicity and ease of access for the general public. The public needed to have confidence in the systems so they could report and track issues. Digital was also important for enabling them to access information such as on the City’s parks. The pandemic had certainly accelerated the digital agenda and its importance. It was important to remember though, the people in the City that did not use digital. The Business Improvement Manager was currently liaising with some Councillors on a digital reporting mechanism for Councillor enquiries. Being aware of the applications available and the plethora of information was key. He commented on the way Covid-19 had changed the nature of working, with so many people able to carry out their roles at home.
A Panel Member spoke in support of the Portfolio Holder’s comments on the importance of getting things right for the residents of Wolverhampton, including the availability of the information. He asked about the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system and whether in future it could send automated messages to the public on the progress of an issue that had been reported. He felt this was an issue which needed improvement. The Head of Customer Engagement and Registrars stated that the system could send automated messages and they had started this with some services. She agreed with the Member that improvements were needed. She added that the current automated response templates they were using needed improving. There was a Customer Services and ICT roadmap which they were currently developing. The first step was to improve the templates and the next step would be to roll it out to all areas that currently used the Customer Engagement platform.
The Panel Member responded that there would be times when an automated message would not be appropriate to a customer enquiry. Where there were unresolved cases, in some software products, it would add the enquiry to an agent’s workflow automatically. He thought this was a good way to keep to service level agreements. He had raised issues to do with customer responses over three years ago and felt there should be some urgency to improvement. The Head of Customer Engagement and Registrars added that all the Panel Member’s points were being looked at as part of the development of the service. There was a Service Development Team within Customer Services and they were setting up some Customer User focus groups.
The Portfolio Holder remarked that Customer Services now came under the City Environment Portfolio, which was advantageous as many customer enquiries were often related to this area. He accepted that some of the wording of the automated messages needed to be clearer for residents.
A Panel Member spoke on the rapid change, evolution of digital technology and the challenges and opportunities this brought. He felt that the public wanted the Council to use digital technology more. He asked how many CCTV cameras the Council owned that played a role in the digital revolution. His second question was how the Council could continue to inform Members of the Council about the development and the pace of digital technology. He had been most impressed, when he heard as part of the Officer’s presentation, the ability to conduct digital autopsies. He was in favour of the Council developing the use of digital within services.
The Head of Environmental Services responded that Environment Services did not own enough CCTV cameras, they were looking to purchase more. The cameras could be deployed anywhere in the City and moved from location to location. They were predominately used to detect and deter fly tipping offenses. Environment Services owned approximately ten cameras. There were other cameras the Council used including those in the Town and City Centres operated by the Business Improvement Districts and also the transport cameras. Cameras helped people to feel safe.
A Panel Member gave an example of a recent Customer Services enquiry. He referred to a raised junction off Broad Lane South, Wednesfield, which had been reported six weeks beforehand. He had heard nothing since and was being asked by the public about progress. Feedback on enquiries into Customer Services was important, such as the raised junction off Broad Lane South. He also cited as another example the need to keep the public informed on the clean up of incidents of fly tipping within the City.
A Member of the Panel commented that he was often asked about public protection issues and environmental crime. Residents were becoming more aware of the Report It App. He congratulated the team on the report.
The Director for Environment Services thanked the Panel Members for their contributions to the reports on digital over the last year. A report would be received by the Scrutiny Board on the work the Scrutiny Panels had completed on digital.