Information and Customer Access Resources (Agenda Item 4)
To receive the report of the Leader of the Council.
The Leader of the Council presented the report which proposed additional ICT posts to meet the Council’s digital strategy which was a key part of the Corporate Plan vision.
The Head of Information & Customer Access explained the need for urgency. His responsibilities covered ICT, Customer Services and Communications and those three areas supported all of the Council’s other services. The aim was to improve IT which would in turn improve communications and provide more on-line services. The technology was available and the Council wanted to offer its customers options as well as providing a more streamlined 24/7 service. Some of the current processes in use by the Council needed modernising and that work would require a solid, robust and reliable ICT service. The current agreement with NCC did not meet those needs. The Interim IT Manager’s contract was coming to an end and there was an urgent need to get a new structure in place. Additional resources would give the Council flexibility.
The proposal was to change to the Structure set out on page 4 of the agenda. However, it was noted that the change from a shared Communications Manager to a single, place-based Manager was not part of the current proposal.
The proposed IT Manager would need a background in customer orientated services and be capable of architecture planning. There was concern that there would be limited candidates for that post. The .4FTE post was also likely to prove difficult to recruit to.
There was £925,000 in the budget already approved for the Transformation project. The proposal would use £310,000 of that money over the next three years to provide 3.4FTE wholly Breckland posts which it might be possible to share with Partners to reduce costs.
Councillor Carter sought clarification on what the new posts would be for and he was advised that historic issues would be addressed first as there was a backlog of projects. All the posts would be advertised immediately.
Councillor Borrett was concerned that the proposal would introduce an extra layer in the structure and seemed to indicate that Breckland was less efficient than South Holland.
The Head of Information & Customer Access explained that the two Councils’ IT contracts were very different. South Holland used Compass Point and they were helping with digitalisation. However, the Breckland agreement with NCC did not include any resource to cover that. NCC had indicated that they were not able to take on that project, whereas Compass Point was happy to take on extra work.
Councillor Borrett recalled that the Committee had recently improved an increase to the IT establishment and asked if that role was included in the 3.4FTE proposed. He was advised that that role finished in September but initially it would be in addition to those proposed in the report.
The Leader of the Council explained that the current agreement with NCC was not working well and it was therefore necessary to build in resilience to maintain the current service and enable capacity for change.
Councillor Borrett suggested that using Compass Point could be an option.
The Leader said that there were a number of options to consider and that was why the proposed posts were temporary.
Councillor Bambridge fully supported digitalisation and asked if there was any information on the savings and efficiencies it would bring to each department of the Council.
The Head of Information & Customer Access said there would be savings but there would also be improvements in service.
The Leader gave some examples of processes and their costs. Currently a face-to-face enquiry cost about £15 compared to a telephone enquiry which cost £3 and an internet enquiry which cost 3p. The service to non-digital customers would also be enhanced to maintain choice for the whole community.
Councillor Borrett supported the investment as long as there was a firm timetable for implementation and as long as the savings and efficiencies could be identified and reported on.
The Head of Information & Customer Access agreed and said there would need to be a governance framework and every project would have a business plan.
The Leader pointed out that as the cost of each interaction was known it should be possible to clearly identify savings and information on call times and abandonments was also available and it would be possible to see any changes in those percentages.
Councillor Bambridge thought it was important to make savings in the back office departments as well as the front facing services.
Councillor Skull supported the proposal in principle although he thought it would be difficult to quantify savings, but they should follow on automatically.
Councillor Carter said it was an opportunity to improve service and to not be so reliant on NCC. It would give the Council some control over planning for the future.
The Leader concluded by saying that it might also give the Council the opportunity to provide services to others if digitalisation resulted in space capacity in the Contact Centre for example.
1) a Customer Access and Digitalisation Manager (indicative Grade 6 subject to job evaluation) be recruited; and
2) an investment in resources to increase IT management and architecture capacity to the equivalent of two grade 7 and .4FTE at grade 4 be approved.