Agenda item

Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda Item 7)

The Leader of the Council, Mr. William Nunn, has been invited to attend the meeting to update Members on key ongoing corporate issues and policies and to answer any questions.

 

Members may wish to refer to the latest issue of the Council’s Forward Plan.

Minutes:

Mr. Nunn spoke to the Commission in his capacity as Leader of the Council.  He outlined his role in relation to the Council’s Mission Statement as set out in its Business Plan and Community Strategy, which were the aims to which the Council worked towards, both as individual members and collectively.

 

There was a need to ensure the Council’s plans were both deliverable and delivered and they needed to be kept refreshed.

 

There was a commitment to deliver cost effective, quality services.  It had been possible to maintain the Council’s low Council Tax rate and performance on National Indicators was typically achieving rates 10% higher than other authorities around the country.  However, there was no room for complacency and performance was kept under close review.

 

Mr. Nunn stated his opposition to the proposed reorganisation of local government in Norfolk, which he believed would remove democratic accountability.  However, he remained determined to drive down the cost of service provision and the shared services project with South Norfolk District Council was aimed towards achieving this.

 

Key projects and achievements deriving from the Council’s Business Plan and Community Strategy included:

 

  • Thetford Growth Point – the Council’s key project to deliver significant housing, education and employment growth for the town.  The recent Moving Thetford Forward Open Days event had been attended by some 900 visitors to see how the project was progressing and the plans for the future.  Future focus would also be on the growth plans for the Attleborough area.

  • Thetford Enterprise Park (TEP) – a major joint venture economic development project, involving Council investment of £3 million.

  • Snetterton Energy Supply Initiative – an economic development team project to secure expansion of the energy supply to the Snetterton area to meet demand for future development of this key employment area.

  • RevActive – an innovative green agenda economic development project which had secured European funding, designed to help businesses increase efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint.

  • Breckland Youth Council – Participatory Budget, enabling local projects through grant funding

  • Consultation on Council Tax – no increase this year, with an aspiration for no rise over the next two years.

  • Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) – working with our partners, secured funding for 16 new jobs helping young people into work in the District.

  • Migration Impact Funding – Nationally recognised social cohesion pilot project to support delivery of services to the migrant and rural communities.

  • Norfolk Public Sector Leaders’ Board – an initiative to secure savings through reduction of duplication of services provided through the public sector across the region.  A first topic of review would be fleet management, where it was felt significant savings could be achieved through a joint or single purchasing arrangement.

  • Norfolk was reportedly one of the safest counties in the country.  Through their work on anti social behaviour (ASB), with the Police, the Council was looking to establish a single ASB team for the area.

 

All authorities were challenged to continue to make savings through service efficiencies and the shared service proposals with South Norfolk District Council offered significant savings to both authorities.  With forecast cuts in the Rate Support Grant (RSG), the leaders of both authorities felt this approach was the right thing to do now to reduce management costs and keep a downward trend on costs.

 

Public sector reform was essential if the demand for services was to be met.  The shared service agenda gave an opportunity to deliver a radical reform. 

 

The Total Place agenda meant that authorities needed to look at service delivery from the public perception.  As Leader of the Council, Mr. Nunn stated his aim was to ensure the Council’s voice was heard at every level; to engage with regional organisations on achieving improvements.

 

In this connection, the LGA’s national executive was being pressed to make sure the voice of rural districts was heard at the national level.

 

Members were then invited to raise any questions.

 

Referring to the Migrant Impact Funding project, a member asked how adult education needs were being addressed.

 

The Director for Community Services replied that the LSP hosted three posts dealing with provision of access to services for all people, which included adult education. 

 

Mr. Nunn added that one of the aims was to increase the skills base of the customer service contact centres to enable staff to answer a wider range of questions on behalf of service providers for county and district.

 

The Leader of the Opposition welcomed Mr. Nunn’s attendance and that he hoped Mr. Nunn valued the work of the Scrutiny Commission as a ‘critical friend’ to the aims of the Council.  He expressed his support, in principle, for the shared services proposals and hoped that the issue of Local Government Review would be put on hold.  So far as economic development initiatives were concerned, Mr. Goreham was pleased to note the Council’s investments in these projects and said that the Council had historically always done its best to support economic development.  He hoped a similar investment could be made in Dereham as for Thetford. 

 

Mr. Goreham also said he hoped the savings proposed through the revision of Discretionary Rate Relief funding might be reinvested into the economic development budget.  He felt this would be in harmony with what the Council was doing in this field.

 

A member asked how it was expected that the shared services project would operate in practice, with officers covering two administrative areas and two councils with a differing ethos.  Would the result be a merging of the Councils, creating a ‘super steering group’?

 

Mr. Nunn replied that 80% of the work of both councils was primarily the same, with a few exceptions and some variation in the level of service being provided.  Council staff provide the services and therefore could easily do so for two authorities, as evidenced by the successful provision of the revenues and benefits service provided by the ARP to three authorities.   A similar arrangement was envisaged under the shared service proposal but on a larger scale.

 

Another member highlighted the importance of customer services and asked about the future plans for centres in the five towns.

 

Mr. Nunn said he felt that the intention to roll out the centres to the five towns was the right approach.  Currently, the centres operated only to Breckland’s services but the aim was to look at how this facility could be extended so that a more collective presence could be offered in the towns, for example to include the Police.

 

A member highlighted the benefits of the Council’s rural bus outreach service and suggested there was scope to extend it to include other services, for example the Fire Service.  A similar operation in Essex had been very successful.

 

This concluded Mr. Nunn’s report and the Chairman thanked Mr. Nunn for attending.