This report provides and overview of activities and progress made on work areas within the Business Management Portfolio, which fall within the remit of this Committee. This information is provided in relation to the Portfolio Holder for Business Management being held to account.
Members received an overview of progress on the area within the terms of
reference of this Committee covered by Councillor Rupert Turpin, Portfolio Holder for Business Management, i.e.
· Customer Contact
· Democracy and Governance
· Audit and Counter Fraud
· Revenue and Benefits
· Risk Management
· Income Generation
· Business Management
Councillor Turpin responded to Members’ questions as follows:
In response to a question about the underlying causes for the 6% drop in customer satisfaction against the benchmark, Councillor Turpin advised that the Council’s telephone system was reaching the end of its serviceable life meaning that calls were sometimes disconnected. A new system was under consideration.
Referring to the launch of a 24 hour parking hot line, a Member asked why this was not available though the Council’s general Customer Contact number, 333333, as this was a number most people were familiar with. Councillor Turpin suggested that this may be because the Customer Contact Service was not a 24 hour service. As this was a parking services initiative, he said that he would ask Councillor Filmer, Portfolio Holder for Front Line Services, why there was no facility to be put through to the parking services hotline from the Customer Contact number.
Community Interpreting Service
A Member noted the income generated by this service and asked about the costs involved. Councillor Turpin clarified the figures in the report.
A Member sought further information on how many charities were no longer in receipt of Discretionary Rate Relief, how many continued to receive it, and the number of appeals against the non award of the rate relief that were upheld. Councillor Turpin said that the exercise to revise Discretionary Rate Relief had gone well and that advice was given to charities on minimising their tax commitment. The aim was to resolve issues prior to the appeals stage. For example a change to a charity’s constitution may enable it to qualify for rate relief. He added that, to date, no final demands had been necessary.
Members were pleased to note the reduced expenditure on printing and postage as a result of Members and Officers opting for paperless working. A Member suggested that the initiative be extended to other areas of the Council as the technology for this was already available. Councillor Turpin agreed that there was much potential for this through the Council’s Transformation Agenda. He gave the example of increased use of text messaging (SMS) by the Revenues and Benefits and Electoral Registration Services. Another Member suggested that savings could be made if Members were not sent their copy of Medway Matters through the post.
Internal Audit and Counter Fraud
A Member sought further information on investigative activity in Council Tax collection and Councillor Turpin gave examples of the type of inaccurate declarations that could be made that would result in a lower rate of Council Tax.
A Member asked about the Council’s work with Sopra Steria. Councillor Turpin advised that they were the Revenues and Benefits Services outsourced IT partner and were supporting a scoping exercise for the development of a corporate debt strategy, policy and target operating model. Councillor Turpin confirmed that the experience of other local authorities would be sought.
The Committee thanked the Portfolio Holder for Business Management for his attendance and noted that a briefing note on Discretionary Rate Relief for charities would be provided.