Agenda item

Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda Item 6)

The following Executive Member has been invited to attend the meeting to update Members on key ongoing issues and policies within their portfolio and to answer any questions:


  • Mr. W.H.C. Smith – Business Transformation


Members may wish to refer to the following documents:


  • Governance and Performance Monitoring Quarterly Report (Quarter 4) (see report to Cabinet meeting on 23 June 2009)
  • The latest issue of the Council’s Forward Plan


Mr. W.H.C. Smith explained that there would shortly be announced a re-organisation of the Portfolio structures.


Mr. Smith then gave an update on key ongoing areas of work within the area of Business Transformation as it stood at present:


  • Contracts - The contract with Capita Symonds for the Planning, Building Control and Environmental Planning service had been completed and signed and implementation work on the reorganisation of the service had commenced.


      With the signing of this latest contract, a new Contract Monitoring Group had been established to oversee and monitor all of the Council’s contracts, which included those with Serco, Parkwood PFI Leisure, Steria and Capita Symonds.  This would be a specialist team which would develop an in-depth knowledge and expertise in dealing with contracts across all portfolio areas.


  • Customer Service Centres – The trial being run at the Attleborough Customer Service Centre had been positive and a report on the results of the trial was due to be completed at the end of the month.  There had been an increased footfall in the use of the Centre and the Police had expressed an interest in using the facility to provide a public point of contact to their service in the town.


The results of the Attleborough trial would help to inform the plan for an integrated system of presence offices in all the five market towns in the District.  This would involve an increased financial resource and some ICT issues remained to be resolved to build in the necessary appropriate links to the back-office. This work was being progressed.

  • Business Improvement Team – This was a small but highly successful team, very ably led by Adam Colby, which helped the Council to improve and update its ways of working and effectiveness.  The team’s work on the Council Tax project, for example, had produced excellent results and other authorities had shown interest in the project.


Monitoring of ICT initiatives was carried out by the Business Improvement Board (previously the ICT Strategic Board), which now reported through the Executive Board to enable corporate monitoring and control. 


The next major project for the team would be that of “mud to houses”.


  • Anglia Revenues Partnership (ARP) – The work of the Partnership and its trading arm, ARPT Limited, was progressing well.  The ARP jointly with Steria had just secured a major contract to provide a service to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.  There was growing interest from other authorities in the Partnership and its trading arm, ARPT.


With reference to the Police’s interest in having a presence at the Attleborough Customer Service Centre, Mr. Gilbert drew attention to the similar facility established at the Watton Post Office and offered to provide contact information if required.


So far as the ARP was concerned, a member queried the potential risk to the Council from the Partnership outgrowing its original purpose and asked at what stage could the ARP be said to have reached its optimum size?


The Executive Member replied that the ARP and ARPT had provided significant savings and income to the Partners and confirmed there were plans for further growth.  It was appreciated that as they grew, the contractual arrangements would become more complex.  ARP was now a recognised and respected brand name across the country and further growth would see continued savings on the benefits service to the Partner authorities. 


However, EU procurement rules were a complicating factor for the continued growth of ARP and therefore expert advice was being sought on how the Partnership can be developed in the way the Partners wanted within the limits set by these procurement rules.


It was also noted that, to date, the Partner authorities had opted not to take any dividends out of ARPT to enable the company to continue to develop.


Further questions related to the return on investment on ARP and whether the quality of service issues in the Capital Symonds contract had been fully resolved to the Council’s satisfaction. 


Mr. Smith answered that the ARP had produced approximately £1million savings to the Council per annum. 


So far as the Capita Symonds contract was concerned, an undertaking had been given by the contractor confirming that the existing quartile service would be maintained and on its hand-back at the end of the contract.  The service under the contract would be closely monitored through appropriate reports to OSC, Audit Committee and the Client Monitoring Group.


The Chairman felt there should be more frequent monitoring of the Capita Symonds contract initially by the OSC and Audit Committee and he suggested that a quarterly review might be more appropriate as this was such a new venture for the Council.


The progress of the ARP and the interest being shown in the Partnership by other authorities was pleasing to note and the Chairman felt the experience gained would be useful to the Capita Symonds contract.


It was noted that the new corporate Contract Monitoring Group was expected to be established by September, with work being managed through the governance and performance management process. The Member Development and Scrutiny Officer confirmed that an item on contract monitoring was included in the OSC work programme for October.


The Chairman thanked Mr. Smith for his report and it was


RESOLVED that the report be noted.