a) Breakdown in Communications
Raised by the Clerk for Stanford Parish Council
“For some time now, EFDC has been seemingly moving toward a more ‘corporate’ structure which has, over time, diminished the individual personal contacts and direct routes that Parish and Town Council’s had into officers at EFDC, with the majority of queries now having to go through the same route and process as members of the public. The only other alternative is to raise the issue with directly with District Councillors for action. Whilst these new processes may be good from an ‘organisational’ standpoint for the District Council, it is proving to be both damaging and frustrating for members of the public and local councils, who in some cases have to wait months for a response – if they get one at all. This is contributing to a breakdown in the relationships that Parish and Town Councils have (had) with EFDC. Given as Parish and Town Council now seem to be taking on assisting members of the public who are exacerbated with trying to contact, or get action from, EFDC, I believe either a specific Local Council Liaison Officer is employed at EFDC to deal directly with Parish enquires and queries, or alternatively Parish and Town Councils are provided with Officers names, their responsibilities, direct line phone numbers and email address for EFDC Officers to whom they can make direct contact to raise a query.”
Several Committee members concurred with the comments and commented that the Council seemed to be operating a more remote service, where responses were not being received. It was felt that a hotline should be provided to Town and Parish Councils as they were a different organisation that also communicated with many residents.
The Customer Services Manager advised that a new model of customer service had been introduced to take nontechnical queries away from technical officers, allowing them more time to deal with their specialist area. In addition to this, the Customer Contact Centre officers had created several online forms for residents to complete. These aimed to collate the correct information required for their query and reduce the time taken to provide a response.
She advised that there had been some resourcing issues with the Customer Contact Centre, and she had also reached out to EFDC Members for feedback. Once the information had been collated, she would be able to assess what the issues were and how to address them. She requested that any Parish and Town Clerks and Councillors with problems should email her with the details so they could be investigated. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
She advised that although there wasn’t a budget for a Parish and Town Liaison Officer, she would be setting up future workgroups which Parish and Town Clerks were welcome to attend.
The Committee commented that sometimes, they just needed to speak to an officer quickly, to resolve a query rather than calling the contact centre to then be forwarded to the relevant officer. The Customer Services Manager advised that all of the Customer Contact Centre officers had been upskilled to deal with many issues and may be able to assist.
The Customer Services Manager advised that Members contact forms were logged, which allowed for the Customer Services Team to trace what had happened to queries; where they had been forwarded to; and that they were responded to within the SLA. It was hoped that a case management system would be introduced for all queries so that all queries could be traced from beginning to resolution.
The EFDC Customer & Partnership Services Portfolio Holder concluded that the Council was trying to streamline the process, to improve the service and acknowledged that there had been a number of technical and staffing difficulties with the service still in transition. He informed the Committee that by going through the Customer Contact centre, it would ensure that the query was passed onto the most relevant and available officer. Once the query had been allocated to an officer, the resident should receive an email to advise you who would be dealing with the query and then, if required the officer could be contacted directly. In conclusion he requested that everyone followed the contact procedures so that the Council could determine whether the issues were down to the process, technical or the officer.