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:
Transformation and Digital Services
· Is information on Smart Energy shared with MDC and relevant Council services?
The Portfolio Holder said that information was shared with the Cabinet and officers worked closely with MDC.
• How was the name for the Eden House Assessment Unit chosen? How was the refurbishment funded, and who were Five Rivers?
The Portfolio Holder advised that the name was chosen by the Medway Children in Care Council and the refurbishment was funded as a capital project. Five Rivers were responsible for the day to day running of the facility following consideration of bids by the Procurement Board.
The Portfolio Holder said that there was a charge on each transaction that paid for the Ringo service. The Chief Finance Officer confirmed that this was set at 9 pence.
· What progress had been made towards introducing an online system for applying for residents’ parking permits?
The Portfolio Holder said that he would make enquiries so that an answer could be provided outside the meeting.
• Will the data reports from the Smart Road Surface Monitoring Pilot be made available?
The Portfolio Holder said that the quality of the data captured by the high-definition cameras was very high and it was hoped that this could be shared with the Regeneration Culture and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
• Will Smart Winter Gritting result in less gritting?
The Portfolio Holder explained that there would be more targeted gritting with the sensors stopping the gritting operation when they detected warm areas; gritting would restart when cold areas were detected.
• Within the reduced Gun Wharf footprint, there needed to be suitable meeting space with good acoustics.
The Portfolio Holder stressed that the leasing of space at Gun Wharf to the Ministry of Justice would enable the Family Court to stay in Medway. Following the end of its lease of Anchorage House, the original plan was for it to move to Maidstone, but the Council’s legal team had put together a strong case to the Ministry of Justice for its retention in Medway.
Complaints Policy and Management
· More could be done to make it easier for residents to complain, by reducing both the number of dropped calls and the number of different reporting forms.
The Portfolio Holder said that this was still predominantly a paper-based system and improvements were being considered to ensure that complaints were viewed as a learning opportunity to help the Council to improve its services.
• What was the latest situation regarding the funding that had been given to MCG (now Kyndi) for the recruitment of locum social workers?
The Portfolio Holder said that the Council had been spending a lot of money on recruitment agencies and having a team at Kyndi had reduced this cost. However, at present Kyndi were seeking to recruit to its recruitment team to develop this service.
· What could be done to help employees who felt overwhelmed working from home? For what reasons were staff leaving the Council?
The Portfolio Holder referred to the two extensive staff surveys which had shown that 85% of staff were happy with the hybrid model of working. Whilst some staff preferred to be in the office because their role was more suited to this, others would find it beneficial to work from home more often. He stressed that whichever model was applied, it was important that outputs were monitored.
The Portfolio Holder said that the Council offered good staff development and recognised that some staff may then be attracted by higher salaries in London. However, some then returned to the Council with greater experience which was positive.
• IT equipment issued to Members and officers during the pandemic
The Portfolio Holder was asked if laptops not being used by Members could be upcycled. He responded that he had been impressed with how Members had adapted during the pandemic, and he would be surprised if they were not using their laptops.
• Support for Medway SMEs in reducing red tape
The Portfolio Holder suggested that the Meet the Buyer events that had previously been held to give help and guidance on the bidding process, needed to be reintroduced. Alternatively, online training might be considered.
• Identification of Traveller sites, including temporary sites in the Local Plan
The Portfolio Holder said that he was not aware of any temporary sites being turned down when their permission was due for renewal. He was confident that the Local Plan would include an adequate supply of sites that would satisfy the Planning Inspectorate.
On behalf of the Committee, the Chairman thanked the Portfolio Holder for Resources for his attendance and for his detailed responses.