Agenda and minutes

Venue: Breckland Conference Centre, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE

Contact: Democratic Services  01362 656870


No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 80 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 4 March 2021.


The minutes of the meeting held on 4 March 2021 were confirmed as a correct record.


Apologies and Substitutes

To receive apologies for absence and to note substitute Members in attendance.


Apologies had been received from Councillors Turner and Martin. Councillor Wilkinson was in attendance as a substitute for Councillor Turner.




Chairman's Announcements (if any)




Urgent Business

To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.




Declaration of Interests

The duties to register, disclose and not to participate for the entire consideration of the matter, in respect of any matter in which a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest are set out in Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011.  Members are also required to withdraw from the meeting room as stated in the Standing Orders of this Council.






Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting

To note the names of any non-members or public speakers wishing to address the meeting.





Customer Service Review pdf icon PDF 90 KB

Report of Councillor Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Customer, Digital and Performance.


Additional documents:


The Executive Member for Customer and Performance, Councillor Robinson was pleased to introduce to the Commission the report on the Customer Service Review that had taken place. The new structure would support the Council’s approved Customer Access Strategy and enable the Contact Centre to continue to work remotely and for the team to be fully supported in their day-to-day roles.


The Customer Experience Manager, Adele Newsome, explained the report in further detail stating that during Covid customers had been forced to contact the Council in different ways thereby accelerating channel shift. As part of the Covid response and recovery they had reviewed how the customer service had adapted and responded to the challenges, how they had changed the way they worked, what they had learned from this and how to adapt it for the future. To do this they felt that they would need to change the team structure and ways of working that would enable the team to effectively manage change in demand and optimize productivity. The new structure would create more leadership capacity and attract and retain high calibre staff.


The aim would be to make services available 24/7 through a variety of channels, improve the on-line experience by improving forms and using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a new Digital Assistant, which was hoped to be available from early 2022, yet still offer customers the opportunity to talk to or see an officer face to face if that was their preferred method. For customers who did not have access to, or struggled with online services, or struggled to contact during normal office hours, they would be supported with some dedicated evening appointments.


The Customer Experience Manager explained the proposed structure including a new senior lead role and allowed capacity for the lead roles to effectively and consistently manage performance. It was designed to encourage a culture of high performance and excellent customer service. It was felt that by creating more leadership capacity the service would be able to pro-actively support and provide a positive working environment.


Cllr Jermy asked about the AI and the costs for implementation and the flexibility built into the structure to cope with peak times during the year.


The customer Experience Manager said that she would get the full financial breakdown and provide this outside of the meeting. With regard to the flexibility, the support roles would not only assist the lead roles but would also support officers and be pulled to provide assistance to the Contact Centre Officer role to whichever channel showed peak and demand.


Cllr Birt suggested that the wording on page 13, paragraph 3.3 of the report was not clear – ‘residents would not always be able to talk to a person without delay’ and asked for clarity. He also asked for evidence that the AI was fit for purpose and how the Council could ensure it would be secure.


The Customer Experience Manager explained that the Service review was currently in two phases and was mainly focused around creating  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42/21


Q4 20/21 Performance Report pdf icon PDF 62 KB

Report of Councillor Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Customer, Digital and Performance.


Additional documents:


Councillor Robinson, the Executive Member for Customer, Digital and Performance introduced the report. He explained that it now included the extra column, requested by the Commission, showing performance relating to the same quarter 12 months ago. He was pleased to notice positive improvement compared to the same quarter last year in areas such as digital, customer communications and garden waste services. One notable area was the fly tipping rates, which, whilst increased in quarter 4 still fell below the number of fly tips reported annually compared to the previous year.


The Assistant Director Customer and Performance, Jason Cole added that the Commercial Property gross rental income continued to perform well despite current trading conditions and was happy to take questions.


Cllr Jermy said the number of fly tipping reports remained a concern and although enforcement was good, he felt communication was an issue and that 500 tonnes of fly tipping on Breckland Council land was significant. Cllr Kiddle-Morris agreed that the communication around fly tipping and prevention could be more robust.


Cllr Wilkinson questioned the methodology with missed bin reporting now the environmental services contract had changed to cover two other councils.


The Executive Director Place, Rob Walker, explained that the principle was that if there were small issues relating to individual Councils, they would be dealt with by the Council concerned, however if there was a larger issue affecting all three Councils it would be dealt with by the Strategic Board. The number of missed bins within Breckland remained low although there could be seasonal fluctuations and holidays which caused a change of crew who may be unfamiliar with a route which could increase the number of missed bins reported.


Cllr Wickerson suggested it might be useful to have reports on the new Commercial Waste service offered by the New Environmental Services contract to check its success or issues. The Chairman confirmed the Scrutiny Commission would be looking at the indicators.


Cllr Birt had concerns over the Contact Centre reaction times and felt with the new structure this would be a long time before this issue would be addressed, he also asked how new website visitors were measured and the fact that Breckland Council were not achieving the statutory timescale for Freedom of Information Requests and would like to see an additional part in the reporting on how long it took to respond. He further noted that bringing empty houses back into service had been put back again and felt that this should be addressed.


The Assistant Director Customer and Performance said he would obtain the details on unique website visitors and pick that up with Cllr Birt outside of the meeting. He also said that, although he did not have the details to hand, he suspected that the delay in responding to Freedom of Information statutory timescales, could be due to the fact of receiving a host of requests that hit every Council from various organisations and these were most probably de-prioritised to deal with genuine requests. Regarding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43/21


Corporate Plan Refresh 2021

To receive a presentation from Greg Pearson, Head of Strategic Policy.


The Head of Strategic Policy, Greg Pearson, introduced the report on the Corporate Plan refresh and explained the reasons behind why this was needed. He further explained that in February 2019 a new Corporate Plan had been agreed which would run until March 2023. However, during the last 15 months there had been a number of significant impacts which had affected this. Firstly, the Covid-19 pandemic, which had impacted the physical and mental health of residents as well as the shape and structure of the local economy and secondly the Council’s 10-year strategic partnership with South Holland had come to an end and a new partnership could possibly be formed within Norfolk. With this in mind, it was felt that a more fundamental review was required at this point.


The Head of Strategic Policy explained they had been looking at a revised look and narrative and how to make it more accessible and fully integrated into the Breckland Council website. It was also hoped to link objectives into larger pieces of work currently happening within Breckland. He stated that the vision “Breckland: a place where people and Business can thrive” was still relevant and would remain.


The presentation covered 4 objectives for the lifetime of the plan and explained in further detail what would be included within each objective:


·         Inspiring Communities - the community focused action,

·         Thriving Places - the growth and economic agenda,

·         Breckland 2035 - the environmental agenda,

·         Working Smarter - which would set the direction for the council’s more internal focused actions to ensure that it was continuously improving.   


The Head of Strategic Policy welcomed the feedback from Members and would work further to incorporate the suggestions into the plan to bring to Full Council in July with opportunities to have input into the final terminology.


The Chairman suggested renaming Working Smarter to Smarter Working, and suggested Breckland 2035 was a long way in the future and that for Breckland to hit the net zero target would require year on year progress and felt a better title might be more appropriate. He was also conscious that other local authorities in the area had different targets with the County Council most recently stating 2030 and wondered whether any synergies might be obtained working with other authorities to achieve a net zero target across Norfolk.


Cllr Jermy suggested that the working title might be changed to make it more appealing. He also suggested that since the last Corporate Plan things had changed, Breckland had declared a climate emergency and adopted a sustainability strategy, which was quite significant and should run through the entirety of Corporate Plan and should not be seen in isolation. Additionally, he felt that as a Council social mobility should also be improved including people’s wages. Maintenance of existing open spaces was also a key issue, if Breckland wanted to instil pride in residents and where they lived, it needed to lead the way and look after its open spaces and take care of community assets  ...  view the full minutes text for item 44/21


Outside Body Feedback (Standing Item)

To receive an update from representatives on Outside Bodies.



Cllr Wilkinson, as a representative of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Kings Lynn, informed Members that a National Government White Paper had stated that integration and innovation working should be adopted within the care system. The QEH was committed to this way of working and as such the Integrated Care System (ICS), Norfolk and Waveney came into being on 1st April 2021 and the QEH was a part of that. This would bring outside bodies together, with all agencies working together rather than in isolation.


Cllr Wilkinson also stated that the QEH was still lobbying Central Government to have a new hospital built.


Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item)

To note whether any decisions have been called-in for scrutiny.




Councillor Call for Action (Standing Item)

To consider any references.




Work Programme pdf icon PDF 151 KB

(a)          A copy of the Commission’s work programme is attached.  The Commission is asked to agree any additions, deletions or amendments to the programme as appropriate.


(b)        Member Issues:  In accordance with the Commission’s protocol for member leadership, which states that members of the Commission will take the lead in selecting topics for overview and scrutiny and in the questioning of witnesses, members are invited to put forward items for selection for future review.


A copy of the Key Decision Plan is attached for Members’ information.

Additional documents:


The Chairman, as suggested earlier in the meeting, requested that Artificial intelligence (AI) and Vexatious Complaints be added to the future work programme. 


Cllr Jermy asked if Members could review how the Serco contract was performing and suggested September as a good time for this to be discussed. He also asked if the grant system for Inspiring Communities could be added to the October programme as he felt it would be useful for Members to understand how the projects were selected for funding and how it worked.


Cllr Birt asked for a review of the IT infrastructure and the strength of the current systems to establish if they were robust enough. The Chairman suggested that after a few recent IT items on the agenda that this might be better suited to the future items with a date to be decided.


Cllr Bushell felt it would be useful to discuss Climate Change with Town Councils to see what they were doing and work together for a joined-up approach across Breckland. The Head of Strategic Policy said that he had some meetings arranged with representatives from Town Councils over the next few months to start this piece of work to look at how it could contribute towards Breckland Council’s Climate Emergency agenda. He would be happy to bring that back to the Commission, perhaps in October to update Members.


Cllr Webb stated that the Housing Performance Review was due to come back to a meeting to look at how it was performing; however, she would welcome input on what and how Members wanted to measure performance. It was agreed that this should tie in with the metrics and KPIs for the quarterly performance and suggested that Cllr Webb and the Assistant Director Customer and Performance discuss this matter further and arrange a suitable time to bring this back to a future meeting.



Next Meeting

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 15 July 2021 at 10am in the Anglia Room, Dereham.



The arrangements for the next meeting scheduled for Thursday 15 July at 10.00am were noted.