To discuss the following matters raised by Local Council’s:
A report from planning officers on the paperless scheme is attached with appendix.
2. EFDC Staffing Structure
To receive an update on the recent staffing re-structure.
3. Community Agents
Please see the attached report.
The Committee received a report regarding the Parish Councils iPlan User Group from the Planning Business Service Manager.
The ratio of electronic planning applications to manual paper planning continued to increase. The District Council currently received 46% of all applications in electronic format which was expected to increase to over 60% in the next twelve months. It was advised that nationally 82% of all planning applications were being processed in electronic format. Some urgency was needed to support Parish and Town Councils in moving from receiving manual paper planning applications to receiving them electronically.
Notification had been given at the March 2014 committee, that as of 1 October 2014, the District Council would no longer be in a position to print and distribute electronically received planning documentation to local councils due to resource limitations. It was advised that copies of plans received in paper format would continue to be distributed to local councils.
Members were informed that Development Management intended supporting local councils through this process with the following measures:
(a) Provision of a limited number of small projectors to assist in presenting applications electronically. This would take the form of a one off grant to the local councils concerned and the District Council would not be responsible for the maintenance or replacement of equipment provided;
(b) Parish and Town Council feedback was being actively encouraged both from the iPlan User Group and individual councils;
(c) Parish and Town Councils had been encouraged to visit planning services to gain familiarity with planning processes and an understanding of the electronic processing of applications. Further visits throughout 2014 would continue to be supported;
(d) The District Council’s ICT section had raised the issue of connectivity with BT Superfast Broadband as there were on-going problems with Broadband access in some areas. ICT had communicated to Buzzcom about Broadband service to some of the Town and Parish Councils, they were also checking services for North Weald and Chigwell; and
(e) A pilot project was in the process of investigating whether it was feasible to provide access to planning documentation held by the District Council on their in-house ICT system for Parish/Town Council clerks. The benefits of this would improve image quality of plans and quicker downloading times.
That the following be noted:
(1) That a meeting of the iPlan User Group held on 29 May 2014 discussed the difficulties in accessing Broadband with slow speeds creating downloading difficulties;
(2) That the District Council is assisting Parish and Town Councils move towards paperless planning meetings by providing a number of support measures;
(3) That further meetings will take place during 2014 with Parish Clerks for training and support;
(4) That Development Management (Planning) has allocated projectors/screens for the display of planning information at Parish Council planning meetings;
(5) That the District Council would purchase projectors/screens for the use of Parish/Town Councils, but would not be held responsible for their maintenance including equipment failure; and
(6) That no further paper copies of plans received electronically will be distributed to Parish/Town Councils in paper format from 1 October 2014.
(2) EFDC Staffing Re-Structure
The Deputy Chief Executive updated the committee on the recent Corporate Re-Structure. The Council agreed the Re-Structure programme in December 2013 and implementation commenced on 1 April 2014. It was noted that the District Council undertook many tasks very well but there was room for improvement particularly in terms of internal communications and corporate co-operation.
The Chief Executive now had responsibility for the role of Returning Officer/Registration Officer and had reduced the directorates from 7 to 4 which were now as follows:
(a) Director of Resources/Chief Financial Officer – Bob Palmer;
(b) Director of Governance, Monitoring Officer/Solicitor to Council – Colleen O’Boyle;
(c) Director of Neighbourhoods, Deputy Chief Executive, Overview and Scrutiny Lead – Derek Macnab; and
(d) Director of Communities, Alan Hall
The Committee were advised that there had been no compulsory redundancies consequent to the re-structure, 4 senior officers did leave the Council’s service, J Gilbert, J Preston, I Willett, M Tipping and G Lunnun of whom he wished well for the future. A chart of the re-structure with contact details has been attached to these minutes.
(3) Community Agents
The Committee received a report regarding Questions and Answers – Community Agents Essex from the Deputy Chief Executive.
The Community Agents Essex Scheme for older people was a new county wide approach to prevention and early intervention in adult social care. The scheme looked to build on the learning from the Village Agents programme that worked solely in mid-Essex providing support to vulnerable adults, mainly aged 50 and above in rural communities. Through the establishment of a network of community agents and volunteers, the scheme managed demand on social care and health services targeting older people and their carers most likely in need of support in the near future.
(a) Why was the Community Agents Essex Scheme needed?
The scheme aimed at managing an increasing demand on health and social care within the broader landscape of strengthening community resilience and increasing independence. The scheme was to enable timely and effective resolution of issues with better outcomes for people and also avoiding escalation of need and crisis with the associated social care costs.
(b) Was the scheme about saving expenditure?
The scheme was not about saving on expenditure, it responded to the findings of the Who Will Care Commission and wok done by the Whole Essex Community Budget Programme which showed that residents aspired to live independently. The scheme proposed savings, but delivered support for residents.
(c) Who Proposed the Scheme?
The four partners, Rural Community Council of Essex, British Red cross, Age UK and Neighbourhood Watch approached the local authority in response to the findings of the commission indicated above, to propose the scheme for managing demand on health, social care and voluntary sector resources.
(d) What was Essex County Council’s Involvement in the Scheme?
The County Council would fund the scheme in full for three years, and reduce this for the following two years. The partners were expected to produce a sustainable funding strategy identifying long term sources of finance. It was advised that the service would not be delivered and owned by the County council, which reflected the change in community expectation needed whereby local authorities would not necessarily provide support for them.
(e) How many people would benefit from Community Agents Essex?
Once fully established, the scheme was expected to support 6,000 people per year, across the county with 36 Community Agents and 72 aligned volunteers per district.
(f) When would the scheme start?
Recruitment of the Community Agents would begin in April with agents in place by June. The scheme would take referrals in October 2014.
(g) What were the main differences between Village Agents and Community Agents?
The Village Agents scheme differed in that it was targeted to a specific cohort of residents and their carers with an emphasis on supporting people in finding their own solutions.
(h) What about the organisations already working in this field?
Organisations were encouraged to communicate with Community Agents and the delivery partners. Agents would offer a facilitative and solution finding service, not provide care. They were working to support individual’s confidence and understanding, enabling them to carry on managing their own lives. The agents were not providing a care and support service, but attempting to link people or refer them to other services.
(i) How much was the Community Agents Essex Scheme costing?
The implementation of the scheme was costing £600,000 per year for three years reducing to £400,000 and £320,000 in years 4 and 5 respectively. Expected savings were likely to be £2 million.