Joint Working Arrangements (Agenda Item 7)
Verbal update by the Chief Executive on the progress of the new ways of working.
The Chief Executive gave an update on Shared Management.
There had been some staffing issues and it had been necessary to find alternative solutions for some posts such as Legal Services. A Business Development Manager had been recruited and would be starting in early August. The Environmental Health Manager had withdrawn from the post and the Building Control Manager was managing both teams at present whilst the situation was assessed. The Community Development Manager would be moving on and a replacement would be recruited. The Chief Executive said it was healthy for people to be ambitious and to move on.
The new Senior Managers had spent time establishing good relationships with their teams and their Portfolio Holders. They were now working at establishing the same good working relationships with all other Members. The new system was bedding in well.
Efficiency aids such as common processes were being developed. The Committee report format had been aligned and the governance structure and performance reporting were also being aligned and proposals would be reported to Audit and Governance Committees.
Video conferencing had been established and was well used, saving time and money on travel. Members would soon be receiving training on the use of Web-Ex which would enable them to take part in conversations via telephone and video conferencing with access to shared information on screen.
All shared managers were moving to new e-mail accounts to ensure that they could receive e-mails from both authorities wherever they were.
The next stage would be to identify areas for further vertical integration to make savings. More opportunities for sharing services would be sought. A Joint Informal Board had been established between the two authorities and would hold its first meeting soon. Scrutiny Chairmen would be invited to attend as observers.
Finally, both Leaders were aware of the potential for additional savings through increasing to three partners. That would only happen when the time was right and if the right partner could be found.
The Vice-Chairman asked if in future briefing notes could be provided so that Members could formulate questions in advance of the meeting. He was concerned that Scrutiny was last on the agenda for the new Shared Managers, as it had done excellent work over the years and helped Cabinet to make informed decisions.
As a result of an informal meeting he understood that some officers feared being invited to attend the Commission. He asked the Chief Executive to promote the Scrutiny function and encourage the officers to be more enthusiastic.
The Chief Executive said that although all of the Shared Managers had not had an opportunity to get to know the Commission yet they would take the time to do so. He asked Members if they would like an informal session to be arranged.
The Chairman felt that it would be good to sit down with the Senior Management Team and Portfolio Holders to explain Scrutiny and encourage information exchange. He suggested that when 75% of Senior Managers were in place the meeting should be arranged.
The Chief Executive suggested that the autumn would be a good time.
The Vice Chairman emphasised the fact that the importance of Scrutiny needed to be understood. Scrutiny was about making things better and helping Cabinet to make decisions that moved the Council forward. He was disturbed that Officers were not comfortable to attend.
The Chairman added that another aspect was a tendency for officers to misunderstand why questions were asked. They needed to understand what was being done to steer the Council towards better outcomes.
The Chief Executive was surprised and disappointed to hear that officers had a negative view of Scrutiny. It was not something he had been aware of and he was sure it was not fed by Senior Management. He could understand junior staff finding it daunting but hoped that Senior Managers were comfortable to come to Scrutiny.
The Chairman wanted to take matters forward in a constructive way to engage with the officer corps.
Mr Kybird asked if the authority would be responding to the Open Public Services White Paper and if Scrutiny would be involved. The Chief Executive advised that he had been planning to take the matter to the Executive and he would invite them to feed their draft through to Scrutiny.
The Chairman raised the question of a joint filing system for Members. He felt that issues raised across both Councils should be accessible by Members of both. Mr Bambridge agreed to look into it.<1>
The Chairman thanked the Chief Executive for his update.