Venue: Anglia Room, The Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham
Contact: Committee Services 01362 656870
Minutes (Agenda Item 1)
To confirm the minutes of the meetings held on:
The Minutes of the meeting held on 12 February 2015 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
The Minutes of the Special meeting held on 17 March 2015 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Apologies and Substitutes (Agenda Item 2)
To receive apologies for absence and to note substitute Members in attendance.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Byrne, C Carter and Irving.
Urgent Business (Agenda Item 3)
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 (Agenda Item 4)
Members are reminded that under the Code of Conduct they are not to participate and must leave the room, for the whole of an agenda item to which they have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest.
In the interests of transparency, Members may also wish to declare any other interests they have in relation to an agenda item, that support the Nolan principles detailed within the Code of Conduct.
No declarations were made.
Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting (Agenda Item 5)
To note the names of any non-members or public speakers wishing to address the meeting.
Councillors Bambridge, Borrett, Canham, T Carter, Darby, Gould, Sharpe, Turner and Wassell were in attendance.
Norfolk Change Programme (Agenda Item 6)
Inspector Paul Wheatley will be in attendance representing the Chief Constable, to inform Members of the consultation process which has resulted in the forthcoming closures of the Public Enquiry Offices in Swaffham and Attleborough and the change in opening times at Dereham and Thetford.
Chief Superintendant Mike Fawcett, Inspector Paul Wheatley and Sandra Scott – Change Manager were in attendance at the invitation of the Commission, in view of the concerns raised about the planned closure of the Police Enquiry Offices (PEO) in Attleborough and Swaffham.
Members were given a presentation on the strategic and financial challenges being faced by the constabulary and talked through the process which had led to the closures.
Norfolk Constabulary had a £26million funding gap to March 2020. £16million savings had already been identified including £360,000 from the PEO closures. Front line services were being shielded from cuts where possible to maintain public confidence and to minimise redundancies.
A graphic representation showed that over 90% of the budget costs were staff related. That figure had to be reduced to meet the financial challenges.
Councillor Rogers asked if any attempt had been made to recruit more Special Constables and he was advised that there were 258 in the organisation at the moment. There was also a Police Cadet scheme for 13-18 year olds and it would be a natural progression for them to become Special Constables.
Councillor Joel was aware that people complained about police stations closing, but they did not actually use them. He asked if the stations could be sold if they were owned by the police. However, it was pointed out that police stations were not closing – only the front counters in the stations. Officers would still be located there and there would be a yellow phone provided at all stations for public use.
It was pointed out that the cost of the PEO in Swaffham was about £30,000 per annum. As only about four or five people actually used it each day that equated to £25 per visit which was not a good use of public money.
Councillor Gould said there was also a lot of concern about the amount of money spent on Police Pensions and their early retirement age, but it was pointed out that the Government had increased the retirement age to 60 and the pension pot was completely separate to the budget.
The Vice-Chairman asked for a comparison between the number of Officers in Norfolk and Suffolk. The figures were not available but there were less in Suffolk due to lower demand but Suffolk had a bigger funding gap.
The Chairman noted that the staff costs seemed to be disproportionately high. He reiterated the question about police owned property.
Ms Scott advised that the estate was currently being reviewed. Partnership working with the Fire Service was being investigated around the County. It was likely that the Attleborough police station would move to the fire station. (The new station at Attleborough would have a front counter to future proof it.) Currently the ambulance co-location would stay as it was, but the Director was changing and there might be an opportunity to engage with them in future.
Councillor Bambridge asked what burden looking after the Sandringham Estate placed on the rate ... view the full minutes text for item 40.
Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda Item 7)
Councillor Elizabeth Gould, Executive Member for Planning, Building Control and Housing, has been invited to attend the meeting to update Members on key ongoing issues and policies within her portfolio and to answer any questions.
Councillor Gould, Executive Member for Planning, Building Control and Housing was in attendance to update the Commission on issues in her portfolio. She introduced the Officers from the Planning and Housing Teams who were with her to answer any specific questions.
The Council was now a third of the way through the 15 year contract. Efficiency and productivity had improved markedly against a background of more complex and formalised legislative requirements.
Capita did not just provide the planning service for the Council it also provided environmental planning, planning policy, tree and countryside service, building control, land charges, local searches, street naming and numbering and a spatial information service. All of those services were monitored on a monthly and annual basis by the Council and its Contract Monitoring Board and in Officer Group meetings.
Whilst the past six years had not been without problems, when issues occurred Capita responded immediately. It had achieved success with obtaining two additional ISO accreditations and had improved performance by taking a more pro-active approach to community engagement.
A recent change had been a jointly funded post which had been filled by Mike Brennan. He now acted as a single point of contact for Members and officers, dealing with a wide range of enquiries, most of which he responded to within 24 hours. Mike also continued to handle ‘call-ins’ to the Planning Committee and had recently been tasked with reviewing the Planning website.
Capita produced a bulletin called ‘Breckland Matters’ for Councillors and Town and Parish Councils which provided updates on planning issues and had had been well received.
To support service delivery Capita had increased the number of technical and professional staff and provided additional resource for the Planning Enforcement Team. They had also drawn on their wider professional expertise to deliver the Thetford Urban Extension (SUE). Simon Wood had done an excellent job on that project.
The economy had changed over the six years of the contract. Capita had just had its best trading year in terms of contract work so far and were on the up at last. Areas for future work were:
· Upgrading the OCELLA software system
· Taking an active role in the Neighbourhood Plan process
· Keeping up to date with changes in legislation
· Speeding up the Section 106 process
· Introducing a Deemed Consent process
· Developing a public facing mapping system
Although there had been some challenges in the first years of the contract they had been addressed and Capita continued to review processes and procedures and staff training to provide a robust and resilient service for the Council and its public.
Jonathan Ellis – Regional Operations Manager had been responsible for the partnership since 2012. He acknowledged that in the early years’ performance had not been good and the service was still not where he wanted it to be but there had been a marked improvement in reporting and communicating.
Councillor Sharpe asked how the Council could react to the loss of finance caused by the new limit ... view the full minutes text for item 41.
To receive the report of the Executive Member for Communications, Organisational Performance & Development.
The Corporate Improvement and Performance Manager presented the report. He had only been in post for two months but he was aware that during Quarter 3 there had been an effort to increase the amount of data reported.
The overall status of key projects was Green. The number of projects had increased due to a back-office exercise.
Of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 52% were Green, 17% Amber and 27% Red, which gave an overall rating of ‘Fair’. There had been a marginal improvement in the number of abandoned calls, which was one of the Red indicators, due to the recruitment of staff. It was hoped that there would be a significant improvement in the next quarter.
The Red indicators for Complaint handling and Street Cleanliness & Grounds Maintenance were being investigated to find out what was causing an issue. The results came from a customer survey and it might be that the right questions were not being asked.
The Performance Team were all relatively new and they would be looking at the Framework and focussing on improving and revising it to include better financial information. The new Corporate Plan included a whole raft of things that would need to be measured.
The Chairman was delighted to have received the first quarterly report that the Commission had seen for about four years. He was pleased with the analysis.
The Leader of the Council referred to the call abandonment rate and was able to update Members on part of the problem. A letter had been sent out by the Elections Team which had resulted in a huge increase in calls from people simply calling to say thank-you. That had coincided with the increased calls that always resulted from the Council Tax bills being received. In future consultation would take place to avoid such problems.
Councillor Gilbert was concerned that the survey questions were being changed because they weren’t getting the right answers. However, he was assured that the aim was to improve services and it was therefore important to ask the right questions.
Councillor Kybird asked if data had been received from the core ICT system. The Corporate Improvement and Performance Manager advised that the report was for Quarter 3, up to December 2014. Since then the data from NCC had been provided and was currently being analysed.
Councillor Canham asked how complaints were categorised and she was advised that the Government set out the standards which were available on the website.
The Corporate Improvement and Performance Manager was thanked for his report.
Next Meeting (Agenda Item 13)
To note that the date of the next meeting has been changed to Thursday, 4 June 2015.
The Chairman proposed that the rest of the items on the Agenda be deferred until the next meeting.
He thanked all the Members of the Commission for their work over the last four years and particularly thanked Councillor Rose who would not be standing for re-election.
The arrangements for the next meeting on 4 June 2015 at 2pm in the Anglia Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham, were noted.