Executive Member Update
Michael Wassell, Leader of the Council, has been invited to attend the meeting to update Members on ICT issues and to answer questions.
The Leader of the Council was in attendance to update the Commission on his ICT Portfolio. He introduced Simon Linsley, the Interim IT and Customer Services Manager as Kevin Rump was leaving.
He informed the Commission that he had taken lead of the portfolio since July 2014. He explained that the current arrangements included resilience, added skills and economy of scales. There was a 5-year joint service agreement between Breckland Council and Norfolk County Council (NCC), with a 6-month exit clause for Breckland and 12-month clause for NCC with no need for a reason.
There had been some positives on resilience such as the Public Service Network (PSN) compliance needs which had been met. There had been a resolution to 22,000 vulnerabilities. By using the service provided by NCC, Breckland had access to more staff.
However there had been challenges such as the support from the Customer Service desk which had deteriorated. An example of this was where a Member had bought their laptop for fixing and was then informed by an email that it was ready to collect. The Member was unable to access emails whilst the laptop was being repaired. It also appeared there was no continuity of support for Members.
Members were informed there were outstanding actions from a recent audit which were being looked into.
It had been noted that since NCC had moved to a Committee System an Elected Member had not been appointed to the Governing Board.
Councillor Jermy asked for clarification on what vulnerabilities meant. The ICT Manager said that vulnerabilities meant a point of weakness in that someone could attack the systems and put the organisation at risk.
Councillor Jermy asked how the deterioration of Customer Service support was documented so that Members could better understand the concerns. The ICT Manager said that when he heard that ICT issues were not being resolved he encouraged Members and Officers to follow the complaints procedure so that statistics could be recorded.
The Chairman asked for clarification that when the word ‘Customer’ was used it meant both Members and Officers. The ICT Manager confirmed this and also clarified that it meant Officers based at Dereham and Thetford Offices. The ICT service for ARP staff had been provided by West Suffolk from 1 December 2013.
Councillor Jermy asked for more information on the outstanding actions. The ICT Manager said that only high priority actions were reported to the Audit Committee and there was no track of the low to medium priorities. Both NCC and Breckland Council were audited together and jointly agreed an action plan.
Councillor Jolly informed Members that Internal Audit would be changing to a new regime which would be risk based and before the new scheme could come into effect wanted to ensure that no ongoing issues would transfer into the new system.
Councillor Bowes said that NCC Officers and Members received better customer service responses than Breckland and asked why this should be the case.
The ICT Manager felt that it was perceived Members of Breckland Council received a different level of service to NCC Members and suggested that this could be explored in more detail.
The Leader of the Council commented that Members were frustrated as calls to the ICT helpline were not answered and were not transferred to a voicemail service. The Chairman concurred with this frustration.
The Chairman said that the word ‘Contract’ implied a contract between two parties and this was not the arrangement. He was disappointed that a Member from NCC was not present at the meeting.
Mr Tom Baker, Chief Information Officer at Norfolk County Council apologised for not securing a Member to attend the meeting.
The Leader of the Council said that when NCC were under the Cabinet system it was clear who had the portfolio responsibility, however this was not the case now a Committee system was in operation. He asked Councillor Jermy as an elected member of NCC to share the Council’s level of dissatisfaction.