Policy & Finance Cabinet Member – Minutes – 29 July 2015

8          (8) VIREMENTS 2015-16 The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report which sought approval for changes to revenue and capital budgets for 2015-16 as part of the council’s policy of active budget management.

On 24 February 2015 Council approved the revenue and capital budgets for the 2015/16 financial year.  The report gave details of virements that required Cabinet Member approval.

Resolved – That the virements at paragraph 3.1 of the report be approved.

9          (9) WEB CHAT PILOT – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report which sought approval to undertake a web chat pilot to provide assistance to customers using www.northlincs.gov.uk.

The implementation of a web chat pilot was identified in the council’s 2014-15 and 2015-16 Digital Development Plans.  The aim of the project was to provide on-line assistance to customers when using the www.northlincs.gov.uk website to reduce abandoned visits. The web chat facility would help direct customers to the correct webpage in order to allow them to self serve and complete their online journey.

It was explained that an initial three month pilot, subject to cabinet member approval, was planned to start 3 August 2015 focusing on the Waste management web-pages. Customers visiting Waste related pages on www.northlincs.gov.uk would be offered an option to chat “on-line” to an operator during working hours.

The overall success would be assessed at the end of the pilot and a recommendation made as to whether to continue with an extended or council-wide facility.

Resolved – That the three-month pilot study be approved.

10        (10) GOVDELIVERY EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION PILOT UPDATE – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report to provide an update on progress made with the implementation of the GovDelivery pilot, an email subscription platform for external customers.

The investigation of an email alert subscription service was commissioned through the 2014-15 Digital Development Plan.  Demonstrations were provided to council-wide stakeholders and the Customer Services Development board.  Interest in the product was high.

GovDelivery was selected as the preferred subscription product given its use across a number of leading digital councils; it also underpinned the email alerts on the national www.gov.uk website.

The report identified that six initial pilot areas were launched on 30 June 2015 covering:

·         Latest jobs (council-wide)

·         Latest jobs (teaching)

·         Trading Standards

·         Normanby Hall

·         20:21 Visual Arts Centre

·         North Lincolnshire Museum

It was confirmed that during the first 72 hours of operation,713 subscriptions were made by 281 new customers. All live topics had at least 120 subscribers and it was clarified that Digital Services would continue to monitor future subscriptions levels to inform further development.

Resolved – (a) That the progress outlined within the report be noted, and (b) that the continuation and wider development of the pilot be approved.

11        (11) MARKET POSITION STATEMENT 2015/16 – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report which sought approval of a Market Position Statement for 2015/16.

The Localism Act came into force on 15 November 2011 and amongst its many provisions the Act provided powers for local communities. One specific and key provision was the “Community Right to Challenge” (CRTC) which came into force on 27 June 2012.

The Act provided ‘relevant bodies’ with the right to challenge the running of local authority services where they believed they could do this differently or better.

The Market Position Statement (appended to the report)was a key document developed to support the CRTC process.  The document had been produced in consultation with services across the council, with the purpose of setting out the council’s indicative commissioning and procurement programme for the financial year 2015-16.

The Market Position Statement was presented as three key sections:

·           Background Strategies & Data:

This set out the key commissioning documents and other council related data

·           Service Specific Commissioning Projects:

This set out a range of service specific commissioning projects

·           Procurement Projects:

A list of indicative opportunities identified by services through both new procurements or contract renewals.

Resolved – That the 2015/16 Market Statement be approved.

12        (12) PROFESSIONAL SERVICES USAGE: QUARTER 1 2015/2016 – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report which provided an update for the use of professional services.

Cabinet had introduced a protocol for the use of professional services as part of a package of cost management measures which required services to report their use of professional services on a quarterly basis.

It was widely recognised that the provision of specialist expert advice was essential for the successful delivery of major projects and effective management of potentially high cost risk exposure. Examples of strategic projects requiring specialist advice included –

Building Schools for the Future (BSF)

University Technical College (UTC)

Waste Treatment

Capital Programme

For the purpose of the report the term “professional services” was used to describe the procurement of highly specialised subject matter expertise which the council did not possess in-house or where an independent opinion was required.

The report set out a summary of professional services usage for Quarter 1 in 2015/2016, and detailed findings were presented at Appendix A to the report.

Resolved – That the findings set out in the report for Quarter 12015/16 be noted.

13        (13) CREATION OF LEGAL ASSISTANT: PROPERTY (LEGAL SERVICES) – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report which sought approval for the creation of a Legal Assistant: Property (Grade 5) post in Legal Services for a fixed term of two years.

Discussions between officers within Legal Services and Property Services had highlighted the need to strengthen Legal Services’ capacity to provide property related legal support to Property Services to enable it to deliver the Council’s Investment and Disposals Programme.

It was clarified that the majority of dedicated legal property support was provided through one officer, Assistant Solicitor: Property, and it was considered necessary that this support was supplemented by the establishment of the above post, specifically to assist but also release the Assistant Solicitor: Property to concentrate on the more complex and technically challenging transactions arising from the Council’s Investment and Disposals Programme.

Further details were outlined within the report.

Resolved – That the establishment of a Legal Assistant (Property) at Grade 5 be approved with immediate effect.