Capita (Agenda Item 8)
To receive an update.
The Director of Planning & Business Manager said that the recent quarterly review meeting with Senior Officers had been a turning point in developing a stronger working partnership with the Council. Capita did listen to the concerns raised and worked to resolve the issues.
With regard to staffing changes, there were several new members of staff. They were: Jason Parker, Senior Development Planning Consultant, Gary Hancocks, Growth & Majors and Richard Michael, Planning Consultant.
The Enforcement Team Leader had made some changes. He produced a monthly newsletter and had carried out a thorough review of enforcement cases. Process mapping of the way the team worked would help to streamline procedures and provide greater quality control.
A new S106 database had been created to ensure the collection of contributions from developers for community schemes. It had been a big piece of work which had impacted on other Enforcement work. However, it was now a more pro-active service again and with the software update there would be significant efficiencies and smarter working.
Building Control had received a rush of applications to beat new regulation changes coming in on 1 April 2014. That had stretched the team. With regard to fee income Capita had applied to take on Approved Inspector status to be able to compete nationally with others in the market.
A lot of work had gone into the Thetford SUE application which was reaching a crescendo.
The Planning Policy Team was working on the Issues & Options document which would include key evidence on Open Space, Retail, Town Centre and Housing Studies. It was likely that consultation would take place in the autumn. The team had also been out making site visits to review the level of housings starts and completions for the Annual Monitoring review. Finally the Croxton Neighbourhood Plan was now looking to include the parish of Kilverstone and Brettenham and Attleborough was trying to progress their Neighbourhood Plan.
Councillor Gilbert said he had never been in favour of outsourcing Planning which had been sold to Members on the basis of being financially beneficial. He asked how beneficial it had been.
The Assistant Director for Commissioning responded, saying that there had been two elements to the Capita contract. The first part had been that the contract would save the Council money and those savings had been met and were guaranteed.
The second part of the contract had been a profit sharing/income generating arrangement. There had been a specified threshold to meet before that part of the contract became operational and it was fair to say that Capita was still not close to hitting that threshold. There was a clause in the contract that if the threshold was not met then a lump sum would be payable to the Council at the end of the contract. It had been expected that the Council would be receiving income by now (five years into the contract) however the model had been predicated on Capita doing Planning work for a second authority from Breckland’s offices and that had not happened. It was also worth pointing out that the market was significantly different now to when the contract was drawn up.
The Chairman agreed that that was a fair assessment. The extent of work through planning applications was dramatically lower than when the contract started, in fact he said it had ‘dropped off a cliff’.
The Leader of the Council reassured Members that regular meetings were held with Capita to encourage them to get as close to the targets as possible. The Council’s aim was to provide a service to residents and to generate an income wherever possible.
The Chairman had noted that the consultation date for the Issues & Options document was likely to be in the autumn and he asked that the Parishes were informed of that as soon as possible. There was to be a Town & Parish Forum the following week and that would be an opportunity to communicate that information.