Agenda item

Introductory Briefing and Service Plan 2015/16

The Executive Member for Corporate Services has been invited to set out the strategic overview for the Corporate Services Department, his priorities over the next four years, the differences which are to be achieved, and goals for 2015/16.


The Director of Corporate Services will provide an introductory briefing in respect of the Department’s objectives, also those of the Chief Executive’s Office, which are described in the Service Plans.


Councillor McCracken, Executive Member for Culture, Corporate Services & Public Protection gave a presentation on the strategic overview for the Corporate Services Department, his priorities over the next four years, the differences which were to be achieved, and goals for 2015/16, which were subject to on-going consideration by the Council’s leadership.


Corporate Services Portfolio responsibilities included ICT, Legal, Democratic  & Registration Services, Human Resources, Customer & Revenue Services, and Community Engagement and Equalities. Also include in this Portfolio was Communications and Marketing and Community Safety.


ICT were responsible for ensuring that there was a technology framework capable of supporting the aspirations of the authority. The ICT strategy covered the development needed to underpin the corporate and departmental service plans, medium term objectives and priorities as well as the ongoing development/ maintenance of policies and standards for the use of ICT equipment and services.


Legal were responsible for all the Council’s legal work whether it was contentious (did necessarily involve litigation) or non-contentious. The Information Compliance Team sat within the Non-Contentious team.


Democratic & Registration Services were responsible for all aspects of the democratic and registration process, this embraced: full administrative support, including the Mayoral Office research and report writing, preparing all agendas and minutes, and supporting a range of other inter-departmental and inter-agency bodies such as Bracknell Forest Partnership, and other partner organisations.


Other aspects included Electoral registration, the management of elections, and the registration of births, deaths and marriages. Nationality Checking Service (checking an applicant's Home Office application form), certifying their documents and sending everything to the Home Office. The Registration Service also offered a range of ceremonies including: Weddings, Civil Partnerships, Commitment Ceremonies, Renewal of Vows, Naming Ceremonies, and Citizenship Ceremonies.


Customer & Revenue Services were responsible for the following primary functions:

·         being the first point of contact with the council, from appointments to register the birth of a baby, to waste collection.(operations team);

·         for the billing and collection of council tax and business rates (revenue team);

·         for the public website and the intranet (Digital team);

·         Implementation of the Customer Contact and Digital Online strategies.


The Communications and Marketing team was responsible for internal and external communications support to all departments, staff and councillors; publication of Forest Views and Town & Country, corporate messages and leading the council’s press office; corporate branding; and leading on the Council's corporate social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.


Achievements over the past four years included:

·         Successful implementation of 360 degree reviews;

·         Achieved PSN accreditation;

·         Transfer from Novell to Microsoft environment;

·         On-going legal work on Blue Mountain, Court of Protection, Employment Tribunal and SEN cases;

·         >£1million debt collection achieved by Legal Services;

·         Achieved “Civic Office of the Year” award for Mayor’s Office;

·         Relocation of Registrars to Time Square.


An Overarching Priority was for Bracknell Forest Council to “Continue to enhance our services to residents” by enhancing our digital inclusion offering; working with our partners to keep Bracknell Forest one of the lowest crime/safest places in the Thames Valley; providing a first class, efficient, service to members; staying abreast of IT opportunities, implementing where practical and beneficial; and ensuring that we stay legal, decent and honest.


Priorities for 2015-16 included: support for business such as the Business & Enterprise Website; Business Relief Scheme; support for Bracknell Town Centre, especially deployment of technology; Community Hubs in Crowthorne, Warfield and Binfield; improved mobile working - members and staff; and support for members – induction, training, and briefing. Development of Digital First Strategy: online citizen portal; easier for residents to transact online; reporting, booking, paying; improve website and microsites.


The Director of Corporate Services provided an introductory briefing in respect of the Department’s objectives, also those of the Chief Executive’s Office, which were described in the Service Plans.


Corporate Services Functions included the provision of some front facing services within these areas. All services existed to support the functions and services provided by the organisation. All services were part of the ‘core’ function or fixed element of any organisation. Size and scope was dependent on the size, services and functions of the organisation but would have to exist in some form whatever the organisation looked like.


Corporate Services objectives for 2015-16:

·         To deliver the budget for 2015-16 and develop a savings plan for the next 4 years;

·         Support from Corporate Services would be required to enable other changes across the Council;

·         To implement the Customer Contact Strategy which involved Digital First, moving services to more cost effective channels; implement Customer Relationship Management (CRM); and the All Services Hub;

·         Staff Engagement;

·         Improve the Council’s approach to efficiency;

·         Develop community engagement;

·         Asset Management including a review of all Council buildings and land;

·         Support the regeneration of Bracknell Town Centre;

·         Support local economic development;

·         Continue to reduce levels of crime.


The existing Service Plan was due to run until the end of September 2015 and then new objectives would be agreed.


In response to Members’ questions, the following points were made:


  • The target was to answer the telephone in Customer Services within 20 seconds but this was not always realistic and this target would be taken out of next year’s service plan. Customer satisfaction remained at high levels. Resources would be put into the Digital Strategy, and included instead would be the call abandonment rate (monitoring the length of time a person was held on the telephone line).
  • There were different views and figures from staff in each Directorate of the Council in relation to feeling well informed. A reward and recognition group was being  established to assist with this.
  • Information requested frequently via Freedom of Information (FOI) was published onto the Council’s website but the Council received some very specific requests for information and not many repeat requests.

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