EXTRAORDINARY Overview & Scrutiny Panel

 

Minutes of the extraordinary meeting held on 26 July 2017 at 5.00 pm in Council Chamber, Council Offices, Cecil Street, Margate, Kent.

 

 

Present:

 

Councillor David Saunders (Chairman); Councillors G Coleman-Cooke, Ashbee, Campbell, Connor, Dexter, Martin, S Piper, Rusiecki, Taylor and Taylor-Smith

 

In Attendance:

Councillors: K Coleman-Cooke and M Saunders

 

 

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123.       Apologies for Absence

 

The following Members have given their apologies:

 

Councillor Dixon;

Councillor Falcon;

Councillor Dennis;

Councillor Grove;

Councillor Parsons, substituted by Councillor Martin;

Councillor Curran, substituted by Councillor Taylor-Smith.

 

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124.       Declarations of Interest

 

There were no declarations of interest.

 

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125.       OSP call-in of key officer decision - closure of Ramsgate District Office

 

Dominic Whelan, Director of Shared Services who leads East Kent Services (EKS) introduced the item for debate by providing a presentation on the rationale for the decision taken to close the Ramsgate District Office. Mr Whelan provided some background context in regard to the changing nature and demand for Customer Services and the financial drivers and technological considerations that had been taken into account when making the decision.

 

The aim is to use technology and telephone contact centre provision in a way that would deliver services to residents in an affordable and viable way but also recognise that a one size does not fit all’ and the needs of the very vulnerable need to be taken into account.

 

Mr Whelan explained that EKS had reviewed its service delivery processes for all the partner district areas which led to the decision to close the area offices in Ramsgate, Whitstable, Herne Bay, Aylesham, Deal and Sandwich. The financial situation means that EKS has to find £834,000 of savings this year in order to ensure a balanced budget following reductions in the management fees and in order to contain growth in costs such as salaries and contract inflation.

 

A member of the public spoke on the item.

 

Andrew Stevens, Assistant Director (Customer Delivery) in EKS made additional comments to the presentation and advised the meeting that:

 

 

Mr Whelan said that moving forward EKS are planning to use existing Compliance Officers, who currently conduct Business Rates visits, to carry-out home visits to the elderly or individuals with disability and assist with requested customer services, in exceptional circumstances to assist those unable to access services.

 

In response to the officers’ presentation, Members raised the following points:

 

 

In response to Member queries Dominic Whelan and Andrew Stevens made the following points:

 

 

Mr Whelan explained that if EKS were to maintain the small amount of staff at the outlying area offices, the impact would be felt in a disproportionate way in the telephone contact centre, due to the fact that they handle a much greater level of work than the area offices. As the churn of staff in Customer Services is high, it is expected that the reduction in posts, which generate the savings, will not require redundancies, although this cannot be guaranteed.

 

Mr Whelan thereafter agreed to carry-out the following action points that:

 

 

Councillor Campbell proposed the following steps to mitigate the impact of the closure of the Ramsgate District Office; Councillor Taylor-Smith seconded and Members agreed the following recommendations that:

 

  1. Officers liaise with Ramsgate Town Council to formally agree the best way to continue to offer services to residents in Ramsgate;
  2. Officers attend neighbourhood engagement meeting in Ramsgate in August to advise residents’ associations on the pending Ramsgate office closure.

 

Mr Whelan agreed to carry-out these recommendations.

 

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Meeting concluded: 5.55 pm

 

 

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