Agenda and minutes

Extraordinary, Overview & Scrutiny Panel
Wednesday, 26th July, 2017 5.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Council Offices, Cecil Street, Margate, Kent. View directions

Contact: Charles Hungwe 

Items
No. Item

123.

Apologies for Absence

124.

Declarations of Interest

    To receive any declarations of interest. Members are advised to consider the advice contained within the Declaration of Interest form attached at the back of this agenda. If a Member declares an interest, they should complete that form and hand it to the officer clerking the meeting and then take the prescribed course of action.

    Minutes:

    There were no declarations of interest.

125.

OSP call-in of key officer decision - closure of Ramsgate District Office pdf icon PDF 157 KB

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    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:

     

    • The Ramsgate Office would be closed with effect from 1 September 2017;
    • The office was currently operational on a part time basis with two staff who each worked part time making one full FTE;
    • The main activity at that office was for residents to drop in forms and documents for processing benefits claims;
    • EKS would still offer face to face service to residents at the main Gateway;
    • EKS introduced a web chat and the uptake by residents has been encouraging;
    • 82% of the residents who use the Ramsgate Office are working age;
    • Visitor numbers to the office has been going down over the years;
    • The uptake of council tax e-billing is 12,000 residents as at March 2017;
    • EKS has been working with Age UK and hosting workshops for the elderly to provide them with skills to access on line services.

     

    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:

     

    • Residents would like assurances to be given that  consideration would be given to the provision of a dedicated telephone line to attend to their queries;
    • What would councillors do with queries that would be coming from residents once the Ramsgate District Office is closed?
    • That there may be an increase in workload for Councillors as a result of this action;
    • What is the total financial savings to be made by closing the Ramsgate Office?
    • How the introduction of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 125.