Quarter 1 2020/21 Council Performance Report
Report of the Executive Head of Strategy and Communications
The scrutiny committee received the report of the Executive Head of Strategy and Communications setting out the council’s key performance indicators for the end of quarter 1 2020/21.
The Executive Head of Strategy and Communications introduced the report, highlighting in particular the impact of Covid-19 on the authority’s key performance indicators:
• services had generally performed well, but some had felt the strain of additional workloads. These included the council’s benefits service which had had to administer a large number of new applications in response to government grants announced during lockdown;
• high call volumes in customer services as a result of changing working arrangements following the closure of the town hall;
• sharp drop in penalty charge notices as a result of fewer car movements coupled with the suspension of some restrictions;
• changes to the housing figures following the government’s drive to get rough sleepers off the streets;
• rise in recycling rates, possibly explained by the additional packaging generated by home deliveries from online shopping and the closure of Hertfordshire County Council’s household waste and recycling centres;
• closure of leisure centres during lockdown;
• lower rates of council tax and non-domestic rates collection;
• lower rates of staff sickness whilst working from home.
The Executive Head of Strategy and Communications noted that some data remained outstanding and would be circulated when it became available.
During subsequent discussions, committee members raised a number of issues including:
• Staff mental health – the effects of home working on staff morale and on their mental health. It was noted that the council’s Managing Director was keenly aware of the impact of lockdown and current working arrangements on officers’ health and wellbeing. Measures had been put in place, and remained under review using regular staff surveys and increased communication and liaison within and between teams across the authority.
Scrutiny members suggested that specific training for managers in mental health first aid should be arranged. In addition, the views of the council’s existing mental health first aiders should be sought to establish how managers might better engage on mental health.
• ICT customer satisfaction surveys – the process of seeking feedback from helpdesk users and whether this was sought in all cases. Response rates were acknowledged to be generally low. It was agreed to send committee members an example of the automated email and to assess whether the messaging might be improved. Clarification would also be sought on whether emails were sent to users experiencing on-going problems.
• Benefits team – whether extra staff had been deployed to assist the benefits team with increased workloads.
• Customer services – whether customers’ needs for face to face contact, particularly for those either unable to access or unfamiliar with online services such as the elderly, were being met by the limited opening of the town hall. It was reported that face to face meetings had been possible for a number of weeks, but that uptake had been low. People had generally been signposted to online resources or to the telephone (either their own or those provided in the customer service centre). Further analysis was being undertaken to determine the future need for face to face contact, which would be looked at in conjunction with the council’s duty of care to protect its front line staff.
• Housing and homelessness – how many people had been permanently rehoused since March.
• Waste and recycling as a result of the council’s new arrangements – the need to scrutinise the impacts of the recently introduced green waste charging. It was suggested that this might include new indicators for food waste recycling as well as counter indicators to measure any reduction in waste levels in the black bins.
Discussing the reasons for recent changes to the council’s waste and recycling services agreed by Full Council, the Portfolio Holder for Client Services underlined the authority’s hope that recycling rates would increase significantly over time. Higher rates in Three Rivers District Council were cited, where there were charges for green waste collection.
The Portfolio Holder went on to explain that brown food caddies had been introduced because people did not want to keep kitchen waste for two weeks between collections. Food waste represented 30% of the waste in black bins and it had been important to address this problem. In addition, government had announced that by 2023 weekly food waste collections would be required.
Scrutiny members expressed concerns about the safety of current practices for collecting the brown caddies. The Portfolio Holder for Client Services agreed to speak with the Group Head of Community and Environmental Services.
• Penalty charges – these should not been seen as a money making scheme. It was confirmed that targets were not permitted to be set for the issuing of penalty notices. Messaging and good signage was key.
Acknowledging that this area would be covered by the Group Head of Transformation in the future, the committee thanked the Executive Head of Strategy and Communications for her insightful reporting and analysis to scrutiny members over recent years.
that Overview and Scrutiny Committee notes:
1. the key performance indicator results for Quarter 1 2020/21.
2. that KPIs will be reviewed as part of the current service planning process and an updated report will be presented to Overview and Scrutiny Committee later in the year.
Action: Executive Head of Strategy and Communications