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 areas 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;
· Income Generation;
· Risk Management;
· Business Management; and
Councillor Turpin responded to Members’ questions and comments as follows:
Democracy and Governance – a Member suggested that some thought should be given to the potential to expand the role of the Mayor to include building relationships with key organisations and people in Medway, noting this may require some investment. The Portfolio Holder agreed to explore this idea and commented that previous mayors could be invited to contribute ideas through a working party, which another Member suggested should be cross party.
A Member referred to the annual canvass and the elections next May and asked what was being done to get as close as possible to a 100% response rate. The Portfolio Holder provided the latest statistics for the various channels people could use to respond, noting the figures had improved in some areas and reduced in others and that also there could be significant differences between individual wards. The aim was to get to as high a figure as possible.
Customer Contact – a Member expressed concern at staffing levels in Hubs given that workloads in some areas (such as council tax billing) would soon peak, but recognised that in the longer term there was a need to reduce staffing levels as a result of the transformation agenda. The Portfolio Holder explained that face to face and telephone contact with customers was still in place but levels had been reduced as part of the transformation programme and the need to make savings in customer contact. A Member emphasised the need for customer contact to pass complex queries to the relevant service.
Customer Contact had recently merged with the Business Administration Support Service and he would be closely monitoring the performance of the new team. The extent to which any consultation with staff on the re-structure had taken place, what training was in place, whether there had been any redundancies and whether the number of re-organisations which were below the threshold which triggered consultation with staff was increasing. The Portfolio Holder advised the restructure had been carried out sensitively and there had been no compulsory redundancies but some redeployments. Change was inevitable and would lead to improved services. He added that the staff he had spoken to seemed to be content in their new roles.
Audit and Counter Fraud – in response to a query, it was clarified that the new post of Intelligence Officer supported the work of the multi-disciplinary team and was not the sole officer responsible for fraud investigations.
Business Rates – the long term impact of ongoing appeals was referred to. The Portfolio Holder advised that appeals could take a long time to resolve. This was a national issue which could have an adverse impact locally. He was willing to look at any cases referred to him by Members.
Risk Management – with regard to cyber security, a Member asked what conversations had taken place with other councils and whether advice from the Local Government Association had been considered. The Portfolio Holder commented that there was an opportunity for Members to suggest new corporate risks as part of the process for reviewing the register. The Council always dealt with high quality IT partners and suppliers. He would discuss the suggestion that cyber security should be a corporate risk outside the meeting.
The Committee noted the report and thanked Councillor Turpin for his attendance.