Agenda item

Office Co-Location with Department of Work & Pensions (Agenda Item 14)

Report by Trevor Carter, Executive Member for Place.

 

Please note that the appendices to this report are strictly private & confidential (please see agenda item 19).

Minutes:

It was noted that the Recommendation had not printed out in the Agenda.  The wording of the recommendation was contained in Option 1.

 

The Executive Member for Place welcomed the proposal which would provide residents with a ‘one stop shop’ for benefits at the Council Offices.  It was noted that the appendices to the report were below the line and if Members wished to discuss those details it would be necessary to pass a resolution to exclude the press and public.

 

The Executive Director Place explained that it was a decision of the Department of Works & Pensions (DWP) to move to Council Offices nationally and was linked to the roll-out of Universal Credit.  The move would be a fundamental change as more public would visit the building.  To accommodate the DWP there would be moves for several departments.  The Housing Team would be located close to the DWP to optimise the aim of providing a seamless service. 

 

The Deputy Leader and Executive Member for People & Information thoroughly supported the project and asked that the Age Concern Audit recommendations be taken into account to make the service area dementia friendly and easier for all.

 

Councillor Borrett was keen for the Council to maximise its income but wondered if there would be a knock-on effect of more people visiting the Council increasing demand for face-to-face contact.  He also asked if there would be enough space.

 

The Executive Director Place was not expecting any increase but the service would be reviewed and adapted as necessary.  With regard to space he advised that the building would be close to capacity.

 

Councillor Bambridge also supported the proposal but asked if there could be a bus stop at the office for visitors using public transport.

 

The Executive Director Place pointed out that it was the DWPs decision to move and they had carried out their own risk assessment and would have considered that issue.

 

Councillor Cowen agreed that it was a good idea which would fit with the Council’s transformation agenda.  However, he wondered if the overall effect would be that people would think they were visiting the DWP not the Council. 

 

The Executive Director Place said that was a fair point and that branding would need to be carefully considered to make clear that there were a number of organisations working from the Council’s offices.

 

The Executive Member for Income & Prosperity thought it was important to maintain the integrity of the Council’s ownership whilst working with other Partners to make the public’s experience when visiting a good one.

 

Councillor Duigan pointed out that there was already a bus service which linked the town centre to Tesco’s car park every hour.  He wondered if the change would put pressure on the Council’s car park.  It was confirmed that the need had been assessed and there was sufficient provision for visitors to the DWP.

 

OPTIONS

 

1.     Enter into leasehold agreements with the Department for Work and Pensions for office space at Elizabeth House, Dereham and Breckland Business Centre, Thetford.

 

2.     Do not enter in to the leasehold arrangements and cease negotiations to co-locate DWP within the Council’s property assets.

 

REASONS

 

1.     Transformation: Customers and residents benefit from the need to have reduced levels of engagement and multiple visits to several locations and the broad aim is to achieve more with less transforming the way the public access public services.  DWP has an advanced digitalisation agenda and anticipates more digital engagement with customers both online and within its premises.  This project is part of the Council’s Transformation Programme and is coming forward now to meet DWP’s timescale requirements particularly at Dereham.

 

2.     One Public Estate: The Council’s Transformation key themes include Digitalisation and One Public Estate.  The One Public Estate programme was launched in June 2013.  It is designed to allow local authorities to work with central government and local agencies to release assets and share land and property information across the public sector. Its objectives are to (1) Deliver more integrated customer focused services (2) Create economic growth (3) Reduce running costs (4) Generate capital receipts.

 

RESOLVED that on the terms set out in option 1 of the report the Council enter into leasehold agreements with the Department for Work and Pensions for office space at Elizabeth House, Dereham and Breckland Business Centre, Thetford.

Supporting documents: