Executive Member Portfolio Update
Lady K Fisher, Executive Member for Community Services, has been invited to attend the meeting to update Members on key ongoing issues and policies within their portfolio and to answer any questions.
Lady Kay Fisher spoke to the Commission in her capacity of Executive Member for Environmental Services and Customer Access.
Lady Fisher explained that her Portfolio covered two very different areas: Access and Environment, but that both were very customer/client/council tax payer focussed.
Previously there had been problems with customers contacting the Council and Contact Centre working practices had been changed in an effort to overcome this. Shift patterns have been amended to reflect the patterns of public demand and to provide more cover when increased calls were expected, such as when the Council Tax bills were sent out and currently when high volumes of calls were being received regarding Election enquiries.
A more efficient data capture system was being introduced to assist with performance monitoring throughout the Council and to predict where more resources might be needed. Lady Fisher urged Members to visit the Contact Centre and see the efficient and sensitive way that calls were handled. She commended the work of the staff there who dealt with a huge variety of queries before passing the more detailed or complicated calls to the experts in the back office.
She then went on to discuss the presence offices which now operated in all five market towns. These were expensive to run, but did provide a valuable service, particularly to the harder to reach residents. The presence offices offered a wide range of services, including internet access, help with form filling and advice. It was hoped that other service providers such as the Police, NCC and NHS would join the Council and provide a service from the presence offices.
There had been problems with networks and ICT, but these were being reviewed and the finance was available for equipment to be updated. A strategy was being prepared which would encompass all the updated requirements of the service and allow for future joint working.
This was also a high profile area and Lady Fisher paid tribute to Serco and the way in which they had maintained their high level of service during the recent bad winter weather.
There were issues of contamination due to the wrong sorts of rubbish being placed in the collection bins and it was important to educate the public to avoid this happening. Various methods were being looked at, to overcome this problem, including the use of different languages on bins; picture and colour coding, etc.
School visits were carried out to educate the young and to encourage their participation. There were many exciting green projects being delivered with the Breckland Pride agenda.
Fly tipping was a problem and Lady Fisher paid tribute to the Council’s Enforcement Officer, Keith Fuller, who had been successful in prosecuting some perpetrators.
Work was being carried out with Norfolk County Council on a new recycling centre In Dereham. There was also a joint project with South Norfolk to investigate recycling of food waste.
The Green Agenda had been revitalised and the Green Agenda Working Group was gathering information to bring project ideas to Cabinet. It was important that a green strand should run through the whole organization. Examples of this were the Swaffham bag-free zone which would be launched shortly; the REV active project and the use of some of the Council’s surplus land for biodiversity projects.
Lady Fisher concluded by saying that she had been interviewed by the Audit Commission recently and had told them about the homeless hostel, John Room House which had been refurbished using energy efficient materials including a sedum roof.
With regard to proposals for recycling of food waste, Members expressed concern about the lack of consultation and the potential problems caused by additional recycling bins, especially in urban areas.
Lady Fisher explained that comments had not been sought because the cost implications were being investigated first. Detailed discussions with other Local Authorities were also taking place to understand the implications.
Mr Rogers (who declared a personal interest in this item) said that NCC had authorised a food waste composting site and he thought that there would be a number around the County.
The Member from Old Buckenham said that the village would be holding an Environmental Day in June and he thanked Lady Fisher for the work her team had done.
The Chairman thanked Lady Fisher for her presentation.