Agenda item

Attendance of the Portfolio Holder for Resources

This report provides an overview of activities and progress made on work areas within the Resources Portfolio, which fall within the remit of this Committee. This information is provided in relation to the Portfolio Holder for Resources being held to account.




Members received an overview of activities and progress made on work areas within the Resources Portfolio, which fell within the remit of the Committee. These were as follows:


         Transformation and Digital Services

         Council Plan and Service Improvement

         Business and Administration Support Service

         Complaints Policy and Management





         Category Management/Procurement



Councillor Gulvin, Portfolio Holder for resources attended the meeting and responded to Members’ questions and comments as follows:


     Business Change Team national recognition and the steps being taken to ensure that Medway continues to adapt to new digital ways of working.


The Portfolio Holder agreed that the Business Change Team had worked particularly well over the past few months and referenced the development of user friendly online chat bots as an example of how cutting edge technology was making digitally enabled services accessible to a wider range of people. Another example of the successful use of computer bots was a recent data transfer exercise which had enabled the exercise to be carried out in-house at a vastly reduced cost.


Asked how residents were included in the transformation process, the Portfolio Holder highlighted the importance of being responsive to customer feedback in the further development of digital services. An example was the household waste booking system that was introduced as a result of the pandemic and which had been subsequently been refined following customer feedback to enable bookings to be cancelled.


     Learning from incidents elsewhere to ensure that contingencies were in place to protect against cyber-attacks.


The Portfolio Holder responded that the Council’s complex IT system was managed by a highly regarded team in whom he had a lot of confidence. The team were very well aware of the potential for a cyber-attack and systems such as filters were in place to prevent such an event and to aid a quick recovery should any incident occur.


     Liaison with other public bodies on partnership working as part of the One Public Estate (OPE) programme.


The Portfolio Holder advised that, with the assistance of Government funding, the Council had worked on OPE schemes with partners such as the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Fire Service. One example was work on the proposed new Healthy Living Centres for Chatham Town Centre, Strood and Hoo.


In response to a question on the future of Gun Wharf, the Portfolio Holder expressed his desire for the Council to relocate given the high cost of maintaining the building which he considered to be no longer fit for purpose. The situation was compounded by the grade 2 listing of the building. However, such considerations were on hold, particularly in view of the pandemic. More immediate proposals were to relocate staff from office accommodation that was being leased, such as within Broadside and Kingsley House, to Gun Wharf.  


     Timescale for a review of the new Front Line Services reorganisation to assess if it was working effectively, particularly with regard to Community Wardens. 


The Portfolio Holder acknowledged the benefits of the previous system of Community Wardens but advised that, due to severe financial pressures, it was no longer viable. He was of the view that the new system was working well and that it needed to be given a chance to get established. 


     Continuation of HR Services as a Medway Council delivered function and consultation with Trade Unions as a service user.


The Portfolio Holder emphasised the good working relationship that existed between the Council and the Trade Unions which was vital as they played played an important role. 


     Support for people coming forward to support staff inclusion and diversity forums to ensure sustainability.


The Portfolio Holder stressed the importance of Council being a safe, friendly supportive place to work.  Equality and diversity in the workplace were important for all staff as it reflected positively on how an organisation worked. He added that he was committed to making it work.


In response to a question concerning the lack of promotion material on inclusion and diversity at Gun Wharf reception, the Portfolio Holder offered to discuss the further promotion of inclusion and diversity with the Digital Team.


     Redundancy of staff at Splashes Sports Centre with no reference in the report on the property that was presented to Full Council.


The Portfolio Holder referred tothe significant pressure that Leisure Services was under which had reluctantly led to redundancies. Any opportunities for redeployment would be welcomed, for example as Medway Greeters.


   The rolling out of the street lighting, LED column replacement scheme and the potential for a commitment to duel electric charging points.


The Portfolio Holder explained the two-stage process which involved replacing columns with those that had energy saving capabilities and then Wi-Fi enabling them. He explained the benefits of the Smart City and agreed that the timing of the presentation to Members needed to be finalised. CityFibre were looking to develop a fibre network in Medway which would provide good competition for the provision of super-fast broadband.


The Portfolio Holder advised that the low wattage of the infrastructure which supported the street lighting system prevented duel electric charging points. This would first need to be upgraded by the electricity companies. The Council was looking to provide localised off-street charging points, for example within car parks. 


     Continuation of the household waste site booking system as it was not suitable for all.


The Portfolio considered the booking system to be easy to use and anticipated that it would remain while Medway was in tier 3.


     Potential for fraudulent applications for blue badges.


    The Portfolio Holder advised that a recent Audit Committee report had not identified any fraud. The online application system had been well used but the option remained for customers to contact the Customer and Business Support team by phone when making an application.


    In response to a question on increased disabled parking spaces to reflect the increased number of applications granted, the Portfolio Holder agreed to enquire if there was any correlation.


     Praise for the ICT team for being at the forefront of the Council’s response to dealing with the pandemic.


      The Portfolio Holder agreed and would pass on Members’ thanks to the team.


     Assurance that businesses would maintain healthy workplaces after the pandemic.


The Portfolio Holder advised that the Council’s Emergency Planning team had been advising businesses on what steps they should take. 


     Opportunity for more interactive training particularly in social care and the governance arrangements of the Medway College of Social Care.


The Portfolio Holder referred to the Council’s highly regarded Apprenticeship Scheme which provided good career development for staff. He agreed that it was important for care staff to receive the training they needed to reflect the vital role they provided. He suggested that a briefing note on the governance arrangements of the Medway College of Social Care be sent to members of the Committee.


     Sufficient information for local businesses to prepare for the exit from the European Union.


The Portfolio Holder referred to the efforts made by the Category Management team to support local businesses to tender for Council contracts including workshops and Meet the Buyer events which had been held in the past.


Asked about the potential for the Council to take a more proactive approach in seeking out small local business for Council contracts, the Portfolio Holder referred to the concept of social value which enabled the Council to give greater support to local businesses.


     Breakdown of complaints by service areas; whether/how Councillor enquiries to officers as a result of complaints or compliments received by them from residents were recorded; and why the level of complaints received due to service not being provided or being below standard was not improving.


The Portfolio Holder said that he welcomed all feedback from residents as it provided a learning opportunity for the Council. He asked that responses on the issues raised be sent to Committee members.


     Concerns about the relocation of the Family Courts.


The Portfolio Holder said that he shared these concerns and agreed that a Family Court should continue to be located in Medway as it was currently the busiest in Kent. Office space had been offered at Gun Wharf in an effort to retain a Family Court within the area.


     Replicating the approach taken during phase 2 of the ICT strategic review in other service areas.


The Portfolio Holder referred to the assistance offered to services by the Business Change Team on service redesign and agreed that there was scope to repeat the pilot approach taken as part of the ICT strategic review.


On behalf of the Committee, the Chairman thanked the Portfolio Holder for Resources for his attendance and for his detailed responses.


The Chairman informed the Committee of his proposal to pilot a new approach for the 2021/22 municipal year with regard to the attendance of Portfolio Holders to be held to account by the Committee. The proposal was to devote two meetings solely to the attendance of two Portfolio Holders on each occasion. It was envisaged that this would enable the Committee to continue to devote sufficient time to this activity without putting pressure on the rest of the Committee’s agenda. 

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