Agenda item

Chris Wallace asked the Executive Member for Finance the following question:



I would like to express concerns about the quality of the information being given to the Executive relating to the 21st Century Council. In the update report on tonight’s agenda appears to lack some of the information needed to make informed decisions.


Firstly the Staff Morale figures shown are meaningless in isolation and should show the overall response rate to the surveys. As without the size of the cohort being shown you cannot say whether good or bad, ie 94% of a 10% return is hardly a success story.


Secondly under the Programme Risks section which refers “to loss of key people and organisational knowledge; less capacity available post implementation; reduced performance in key service areas; non realisation of savings; increased programme costs and slippage in IT implementation. There are no current issues or concerns to report.”


The project team seem to accept that a staff turnover of >40% in Housing Services and >50% in the Rent Team are acceptable without considering the impact that level of turnover has on the service provided, the staff output nor on the HRA which we as Involved Tenants are required to scrutinise. A report on the costs of staff turnover by Oxford Economics in 2014 shows an average of £30,000 per member of staff with new staff taking up to 10 months to be fully productive. We are aware that since July there have been 19 staff recruited, plus your letter shows that there are 17 staff members on fixed term/agency contracts. The cost of this level of turnover is therefore in excess of £1 million this year without any further resignations. This is fast approaching 10% of the HRA account and equates to 50% of the budgeted management costs for 2017/18.


Finally the statement that “There are no current issues or concerns to report” is misleading unless the Council considers a Breach of Statutory Duty as a minor irritant and the concerns raised by TLIP and the involved tenants over the last six weeks to be unworthy of consideration.


Can we ask the Executive to ask for full details to be shown in future reports with the actions being taken to allay concerns and rectify any errors?



To address your concerns in turn. I can clarify that we have run three staff survey across the programme in November 2016, January 2017 and July 2017 asking the same questions to be consistent. We have had 690 responses in total with an average response rate of 22.5% which is considered to be a good response rate. I am sure that under any official survey, this level of response would be considered to be statistically representative. The survey is anonymous in order that staff can be honest in their responses.  


With regard to your points about staffing I should clarify that the report we have this evening is a backward look reporting largely on the implementation of phase 1 of the programme which comprised the Council’s back office staff. Housing is in part 2 of phase 2 which, as reported, has only recently commenced.


Day to day management of staffing issues in our Housing Services remains a matter for the service. As reported to Council on 21st September, the Operational Housing Services Team is almost fully staffed, with 30 permanent, 10 fixed term contracts, 7 agency and 8 secondees (that is 5 internal and 3 external to the Housing Service). The Rent Team, which sits in another department, has 2 permanent and 2 agency staff. 


Some of these changes have been more to do with the Council’s, we call it, ‘grow your own’ approach than anything else. Staff are given the opportunity to work in other roles which is a cost effective way of developing them. The operational staff in Housing have not yet been directly impacted by the C21 Council process, so is hard to link staff turnover with the transformation programme at this stage.


We have made a clear commitment to involve TLIP in a consultation about the design for the Council’s housing function to address any concerns prior to any changes and improvements we make. We intend to honour that commitment and discussions are ongoing to arrange this.


Supplementary Question

We run staff surveys, or the Council does, every couple of years and the response rate there is between 35-40% with 90%+ positives.  So it seems a trifle low and you are not being given the full picture of what those responses are currently.  Also there is a section in my question about risk management.  Have any of you, or any of the C21 Council team, read that document?  It is the Sector Risk Profile 2017 issued by the Homes and Communities Agency.  If you haven’t I would suggest you do so as it is a good read before you go to bed.