Agenda and minutes

Stronger Council Select Committee - Tuesday 13th April 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting on Zoom. View directions

Contact: A Hendry, Tele. 01992 564246  Email:


No. Item


Webcasting Introduction

This virtual meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to unmute before speaking.


The Chairman will read the following announcement:


“I would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the internet (or filmed) and will be capable of repeated viewing (or another use by such third parties). Therefore by participating in this virtual meeting, you are consenting to being filmed and to the possible use of those images and sound recordings for webcasting and/or training purposes. If members of the public do not wish to have their image captured they should ensure that their video setting throughout the virtual meeting is turned off and set to audio only.


Please also be aware that if technical difficulties interrupt the meeting that cannot be overcome, I may need to adjourn the meeting.”



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The Chairman reminded everyone present that the meeting would be broadcast live

to the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its virtual meetings.




Subsitute Members (Council Minute 39 - 23.7.02)

To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.

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The Committee noted that Councillor S Heather would substitute for Councillor H Kane and Councillor M Sartin would substitute for Councillor H Brady for the duration of this meeting.





Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 388 KB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 19 January 2021.

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That the notes of the meeting held 19 January 2021 were agreed as a correct record.




Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

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(a)          Pursuant to the Council’s Code of Member Conduct, Councillor R Bassett declared a personal interest in item 10, Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report, Q1 2020/21, by virtue of being on the Qualis board. The Councillor had determined that his interest was non-pecuniary and he would remain in the meeting for the consideration of this item.


(b)          Pursuant to the Council’s Code of Member Conduct, Councillor R Bassett declared a personal interest in item 10a, Corporate Performance Reporting Q4, by virtue of being the Chairman of Community Transport. The Councillor had determined that his interest was non-pecuniary and he would remain in the meeting for the consideration of this item.




Terms of Reference & Work Programme pdf icon PDF 99 KB

(Chairman/Lead Officer) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee has agreed the terms of reference and work programme for the select committee. Members are invited at each meeting to review both documents. 


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The Select Committee noted their terms of reference and work programme.




ICT Update pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To consider the attached report updating the ICT structure of the Council.

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The ICT Manager, M Hassall, introduced the updating ICT report to the meeting. It was noted that over the past year they had focused on completing the ICT restructure and improving the basic ICT service that the team delivered. Seventeen colleagues had left the team, and 10 had joined. The team was now at capacity. 


A business partner model had been implemented with meetings held with each service area every month. This had led to better alignment of ICT services and service area requirements.


The team had implemented a service desk management tool that provided better visibility and management for incidents, changes and problems. They had facilitated the home and remote working for all colleagues across the council, and provided laptops, Microsoft teams, and BYOD support. This had been essential due to the Covid restrictions and the mandate for all colleagues to work from home if possible.


The accommodation project had required significant ICT resourcing and the team had been involved in aspects covering networking, AV, equipment fitting, resource booking systems and decanting of equipment.


Security of the system had remained good and they now had a new Disaster Recovery Solution which allowed services to be run from the cloud in case of total loss of on-site solutions. It was now time to move IT services to the Azure cloud and Initial assessments had been completed which supported the business case of moving to a hybrid cloud model initially.


Councillor Brookes noted that 17 staff had left, and they now had 10 new staff. Were the new staff on short term contract or full time? Councillors had also been having problems with their iPad, how could this be tackled. Also, backup to people who worked from home was mentioned. What extra work did this entail? M Hassall said that the new staff were in permanent roles. The team did have some agency support on a temporary basis, doing such things as covering the service desk. As for providing help for the iPads etc. we had a specialist in this but they were now broadening it out so that more than one person could help. They were mapping out a skills matrix to understand what they would need in the future. As for support for homeworkers there were some practical things that could be done such as showing people how to do certain things, however one of the problems was in contacting the people working from home.


Councillor Dorrell asked about the costs for the cloud, as he had recently seen that Microsoft had recently jacked up their prices for people already on their platform, how long were we locked into the current deal we were negotiating, and could we renegotiate it if needed. He was told that we had an enterprise agreement for three years with Microsoft, the costs would go up or down depending on how many people we had, because we pay ‘by seat’ so each person costs us more. But we also had projects which were evaluating  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.


People's Strategy Update pdf icon PDF 148 KB

To consider the attached report updating the People’s Strategy.


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The Service Director, Paula Maginnis, introduced the updating report on the Peoples Strategy.  It was noted that the People Strategy and Plan 2020/2022 set out clear actions and timescales over a two-year period to support the Council to deliver its strategic objectives and was divided into 6 workstreams:


·                Attracting, on boarding and retaining the best talent

·                Developing our leadership

·                Embracing change to support EFDC evolution

·                Creating a culture of engagement and wellbeing

·                Developing our skills and behaviours to make EFDC a great place to work

·                Achieving organisational goals through a high performing and flexible workforce


At its core was transforming the People Team to become an enabler for the organisation.

The Strategy set out the ambition for our workforce – the right people with the right skills, highly motivated high performing and business efficient.


Appendix 1 to the report set out the achievements realised during Year 1 of the Strategy, 2020 – 2021. In summary, the People Team supported the organisation’s wellbeing, the accommodation project developing new ways of working, developing the culture to become more resilient, improving policies and process, including the use of technology to automate as much as possible.


And Appendix 2 of the report sets out the work programme to achieve Year 2 of the Strategy 2021 – 2022.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse noted that there were different streams of work in the report and asked how they measured the impact on staff given the recent turbulence and when was the last staff satisfaction survey set up. Ms Maginnis answered that they used a platform called ‘Perkbox’ which along with staff discounts and medical services also carried out regular polling surveys. The results were taken to the Service Directors for analysis. The fourth survey of which came out recently. This was an ongoing process. Councillor Whitehouse then asked what proportion of staff took part in these surveys. He was told that the proportion would be put in the minutes. There was more work needed on the promotion and development of this but there was a high level of management support. The surveys consisted of 50 random questions, so after 4 or 5 surveys we get to understand what was happening across the organisation. Councillor Whitehouse then asked who in the organisation knew the overall picture. He was told that it was the people team.


Councillor Bassett said that it had been a difficult year and it was difficult to know how teams were performing when you did not actually see them. As a manager you were effectively working blind. How could a member of staff get feedback if they were struggling working from home or had other difficulties? Ms Maginnis said that they had a process of having one to ones in place and also had a number of tools for dealing with change and working remotely. They were also hoping to deliver an interim project in the coming months with a view to making a bid on funding to do this digitally for managers  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41.


Accommodation Update pdf icon PDF 134 KB

To consider the attached report updating the Accommodation Programme.

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L Wade introduced the accommodation report. She noted that work had now been completed on the Civic Centre and they were starting to repopulate the building in a Covid safe way. One of the first things to take place there would be the issuing of postal votes which will by necessity, have a large amount of people doing this.


A positive meeting had been had with Essex libraries and Portfolio Holders, where they were encouraged by the light open space that had been created and the additional spaces that could be used for community events.


There had been a huge effort by the organisation to clear out the existing space in the Conder building.  It had highlighted that as a council we can contribute towards the climate change emergency, by relying less on paper by streamlining services and storing data and documents within the cloud.


A new print to post service was currently in pilot development stages with Democratic Services, which would reduce the amount of printing that would take place within the Civic offices. 


With the 2nd floor now available for viewings, we have had some very positive interest which we are hoping results in offers being made.


The refurbishment continues to be within the agreed budget and is forecasting a positive variance.


Councillor Bolton asked about the court action being taken to extend the Zoom meetings. He was told that the Zoom emergency legislation terminated on 7th May. The government was being taken to the High Court who should make a decision by the end of April. Currently officers were looking at how to hold Covid safe meetings.


Councillor Neville asked if we were ready for all eventualities if we had to meet in May. He was told that once the decision had been made it would be reviewed again.


Councillor Brookes noted that there were limited car parking facilities for staff and other people; what sort of provision had been made for people who wanted to use their cars? L Wade noted that there was still parking available especially for essential services, but they would encourage the use of alternative modes of transport.


Councillor Janet Whitehouse asked when members could have a tour of the Council Offices and as for parking there were a lot of spaces offered for the commercial lets on the 2nd floor. Will there be enough parking for Councillors, especially in winter nights. She was told that visits to the Council officer would not be happening until around the mid-May period after the local elections. The 2nd floor lets were offered the same amount of parking as council staff, for evening meetings most of the occupants would have gone home, freeing up space.


Councillor Sartin asked about members who had to come in for daytime meetings, such as the Licensing Sub-Committee meetings, they have to come in for these meetings and will have to park. L Wade said this would all be taken on board and consideration given once we  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42.


Qualis Quarterly Monitoring Report - Q1 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 248 KB

To consider the attached report on Qualis Monitoring for Quarter 1, 2020/21.


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A Small introduced the Qualis Quarterly monitoring report (qtr.1 -2020/21). This report presented the Qualis first Quarter’s monitoring report for the Qualis trading year 2020/21 and covered the period from 1 November to 31 January 2021. With Housing Maintenance services having transferred to Qualis in Quarter 4 (end of September 2020) of the previous trading year, this quarter represented the first whole quarter of both service delivery activity, commercial investment and regeneration work.  


Councillor Neville noticed the delay in the business case for the Roundhills and Pyrles Lane development and wanted to know when they would have sight of these plans. Mr Small said that they would have to come to a cabinet committee and so would be available then.


Councillor Rackham asked what were the major risks to the expected outcomes and had the pandemic affected the assumed projected value of the projects. She was told that the major risks were the planning permissions for the sites. As for the pandemic, house prices had remained buoyant throughout, though there was a slight risk at the end of the stamp duty holiday.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse asked about cash flow; what was the position of the company at present as they had their loan and had incoming rental income along with their outgoings, but with major developments there would be a lot of up front expenditure before income came in. Also, the report had pre-pandemic assumptions in there and then noted that these assumptions had changed but did not say what these new figures were. Finally, a big consideration was given to a media consultancy, what consideration had been given to doing this though the Council. A Small replied that for cash flow, the next couple of years they would be concentrating on development. As for the financial assumptions, these would be updated in the next quarter’s report. And on media support, our own communications team was under resourced and would be unable to support Qualis. We would also like to keep some distance between the Council and Qualis. We may need to look again at our strategy. It maybe they may need to look again at their communications strategy, and this was something to take back to the Qualis board.




The Select Committee noted and discussed the report.




Corporate Performance Reporting - Q4 pdf icon PDF 138 KB

To consider the attached report and note the progress of project delivery against Q4 milestones.

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The Chairman, Councillor Bolton, introduced the report on the results of corporate performance for quarter 4. He took each page of the report and asked for members to stop him if they wished to discuss any of the outcomes.


Commenting on page six of the supplementary agenda ‘Museum Collection Rationalisation’, Councillor Sartin noted that the comments did not make any sense. L Wade said that it was referring to refreshing the collections to ensure a rotation of exhibits that were available, and which was constantly being update and rationalised when it was not being used.


Councillor Bassett made a general point on the report saying that generally when there was a red coded item the route to green was just to reset the target.  L Wade said that it showed where milestones had not been achieved, which may have indicated that the dates were not right in the first place. Councillor Bassett said that he did not like it when a red indicator said it was to re-baseline to go back to a green indicator. He was told that was just a date change, not a change to the delivery or the outcomes.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse noted that the ‘Private Sector lettings’ item was now abandoned and asked if we still did not have the resources to achieve this as it was important that we did. L Wade said that she would ask the appropriate officers to provide a response to this.


Councillor Sartin asked what was meant by ‘reduced mobile phone ownership and usage’ under the ‘Mobile Phone Review’ item. She was told that it was to enable the council to look at new Mobile Phone providers as we now used a lot of other applications such as ‘Teams’. The policy was now being reviewed for potential savings.


Councillor Sartin then asked why we were “onboarding suppliers” and was told that this was the start of engaging with the suppliers.


Councillor Jon Whitehouse asked if the applications for the Council Housebuilding programme had gone in on 29 March? He was told that yes they had gone in.


Councillor Neville noted that under the Local Plan item there was to be a consultation in May/June 2020 – should this be 2021? He was told that yes this was a typo and it should be 2021.


Councillor Sartin commented on the appointment of the Town Centre Project Manager, had this been completed and the report written? Officers were unsure about this and would have to come back to her with an answer.


L Wade noted that the KPIs would be updated within the minutes as there were not available at the time the agenda went out. She briefly went through some of the exceptions listed.


Councillor Neville noted that the figures for Household waste was much higher for this last year due mainly to the fact that people were confined to their households and noted that this may go on for some time yet. It may be that we would need  ...  view the full minutes text for item 44.


Dates of Future Meetings

This is the last meeting for this municipal year.


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The Committee wished to add something in the induction programme for new officers about scrutiny, especially as more officers were coming in from outside Local Government and did not know or understand the rules we had to work under. Councillor S Kane said he would take this up with P Maginnis and report back.


The Committee noted that this was their last meeting for this municipal year.