Contract Monitoring - Planning and Building Control/Capita
Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.
The Deputy Chief Executive presented this item and explained that the contract was currently meeting all its critical performance indicators, which were linked to payment clauses. These key indicators and a range of other ‘dashboard’ indicators were being reviewed.
A Member noted that the indicators looked fine, but asked how the contract was working in terms of staff morale. He was also concerned that some staff had left but had not been replaced.
The Development Services Manager (Capita) agreed that staff feelings were mixed. Some were still concerned but the vast majority were settling into the change. There was a staff forum, which fed concerns upwards. This had identified a number of IT issues caused by the computerisation of the Land Charges system and the introduction of planning applications on the website. The in-house IT team, Steria and Capita were working hard to resolve these problems.
With reference to staffing levels, he noted that recruitment would depend on workload. With the current economic climate there had been insufficient demand for more staff, however, they had been successful in winning work elsewhere and were discussing bringing in additional staff.
The Deputy Chief Executive explained that under the terms of the contract the Council had no direct control over staffing levels and could only intervene if performance levels were affected.
A Member noted that a number of builders had raised concern at the increasing difficulty in arranging informal chats with officers. The Development Services Manager (Capita) acknowledged that this had also been the feed-back from some agents at a recent Agent’s Forum although others had not noticed any difference. He admitted that the focus had been on ensuring contract delivery, but to address the concerns raised they had set up hunt-groups on their telephones and introduced a Duty Officer rota.
The problems with recruiting for the Moving Thetford Forward team were discussed. One vacancy had been advertised twice without any suitable applicants and was currently being covered by existing staff. The Chairman had thought that Capita resources would have been available to provide for such instances.
The Development Services Manager (Capita) said that this was the case and they were able to draw on expertise within Capita. Some of the Moving Thetford Forward work was being managed remotely by Capita as they had taken the decision that it was more appropriate to use skills elsewhere.
There was concern amongst Members that there had been problems attracting suitable applicants for these posts when other Local Authorities were laying-off staff.
Discussion then turned to Land Charges. A Member felt that the figures in the report were totally misleading as it was taking five weeks for searches.
The Deputy Chief Executive explained that the indicator in the contract was in respect of putting new land charges onto the Register. Speed of turn round for Searches was not currently included. This would be addressed in the future Business Plan. He agreed that the previous indicator requiring turn-around within ten days was more relevant and that the current four to five weeks was not acceptable, however there were mitigating circumstances.
The Development Services Manager (Capita) explained that the delays were mainly triggered by IT issues. Computerisation of the Land Charges system had identified a problem with data matching, leading to work duplication with both paper and computer systems running concurrently.
The Council had removed the computer facility in reception used by the Search Companies due to new regulations, and this had significantly increased workload as 50% of the Searches now came from the Search Companies. More staff had been allocated to this work to help overcome the problem.
The Deputy Chief Executive said that the IT issues were not acceptable and the Head of IT was looking into how other Local Authorities were managing the new regulations.
A Member asked when changes could be made to the indicators in the Contract and the Deputy Chief Executive advised that the new Business Plan would be starting in June and work was currently underway to agree new service levels and negotiate baseline and resource levels. This would however trigger a Capita option to increase charges.
As a result of a recent consultation issue, the Deputy Chief Executive also confirmed that new processes were being put in place relating to sign-off of such matters.
The Chairman thanked the officers for their update.
The report was noted.