Steve Broughton presented a report which provided an update on the service development project which included options for the future of the Building Control Service. He reported that the business delivery model’s preferable option would be the local authority trading model which would be reviewed on a regular basis. The service has begun to look at the legal ramifications surrounding this.
Accommodation had not currently been a priority as it was noted that 84% of the service staff were now located within one building at Wokingham Borough Council with only five staff members based at West Berkshire Council. There had been ongoing issues with space at Shute End (Wokingham Borough Council), and as such discussions had been held with the Property Team with a view to rectifying this issue. A potential opportunity to move to Waterford House (another Wokingham Borough Council property, which could become available in September of this year, was being explored as this was felt to be an ideal location which would meet the service’s space requirements. It was noted that this property could also potentially house a permanent scanner which could save £30,000 in current outsourcing costs. The cost of a move to Waterford House had not yet been provided but when the information was available it would be provided to the Board.
It was noted that one implication of being based in a single location would be that West Berkshire Council and Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead would not be able to recharge the shared service for these facilities no longer being used.
Marcus Franks questioned how much face to face contact happened between the service and its customers. In response, Steve Broughton explained that very little face to face contact occurred and what wanted in terms of local operation was quick responses e.g. to request for inspections.
Steve Broughton continued the report by updating the Board on the state of the IT procurement and mobilisation. He stated that the service was very close to securing the contract with Tascomi and should this happen by March then a £5,000 discount would be applied to the contract. The new and upcoming GDPR rules were discussed as these were relevant to the data migration that the service would undertake. The service would provide 15 years backdated building control data with a recommendation of disposing of any older data. Should individual authorities require the older data it would be their responsibility to store it.
In response to a question regarding the savings that the new IT system would make, Steve Broughton emphasised that it would be a case of a much more efficient system that would also enable a fully remote/mobile solution.
Marcus Franks enquired about how the new system would benefit the service’s KPIs. In response, Steve Broughton stated that the move to a single system would make the whole business process much more efficient by speeding up administration processes including completing certificate issues. He went on to explain that the service was currently using three separate systems. The implementation of a single system would enable the service’s surveyors to be flexibly deployed across the combined geographical area.
Steve Broughton reported that Tascomi would also provide a full accounting service which would enable all payments and invoicing to be dealt with through the system which again would make the service more efficient. It was noted other local authorities including Hertfordshire County Council (a 7 council agreement) had been using Tascomi and had rated their services very positively.
Steve Broughton discussed the staffing situation within the shared service. He said that there had been ongoing staff retention issues which had resulted in a 50% turnover in staff. A large part of the recruitment and retention issue was that private firms could offer a higher base salary than the service could currently offer. It was noted that the service was exploring the option of taking on apprentices with the opportunity of using the apprentice levy scheme. Successfully winning large new projects and having the new IT system in place would motivate staff and hopefully encourage new applicants.
Steve Broughton reported that having a dedicated website with a single e-mail address and phone number would promote the services’ identity and assist with the marketing strategy. Councillor David Coppinger, queried whether the marketing strategy would come to the Board for approval. In response, Steve Broughton stated that the intention was for it to be sent to the lead Officers in each authority. David Coppinger stated that he would like to see it.
Steve Broughton stated that the original business plan developed by previous Boards was very optimistic. More would be known going forward and a revised version would come back to the Board in July.
RESOLVED: That the management briefing report be noted.