This report from the Chief Executive provides an update on the New Operating Model and the current workforce profile.
The Committee received a presentation from the Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service of Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, which covered the proposed new operating model and an update on staffing at the Council.
A key activity at present for the Council was the production of the new Corporate Plan, which would be considered by the Cabinet at their meeting on 28 September. This would set out the priorities for the next four years and reflected commitments made in the Labour Manifesto. The purpose of the new operating model was to set out how these priorities would be achieved. During the course of the Chief Executive’s presentation the following points were noted:-
It was questioned how Members would be given the opportunity to feed into the process of developing the new operating model. It was confirmed that Officers had been working with the Administration on the development of the new operating model, but once work started on the design and delivery of services in localities across the Borough Officers would also increasingly work with local Ward Members.
As a follow up, it was questioned how Cabinet Members would retain an overview of what was being implemented. In response it was confirmed that Cabinet Members would be provided with regular updates including performance information on the areas within their Portfolios.
Given the potential scope of the new operating model, it was questioned how this would impact upon other existing areas of the Council’s business. In response it was highlighted that it had been a conscious decision to introduce the new model initially through pilot schemes so as not to impact upon the other good work of the Council. This would allow the Council to test the potential benefits of the new operating model and provide stability before consideration was given to a more fundamental change.
In response to a question about the cost of implementing the new pilots, it was confirmed that at this stage the only additional revenue resource was for a dedicated programme director, as the pilots would be operated within existing teams. There may need to be some capital expenditure to ensure that the right hub was available at each of the three pilot locations.
It was questioned whether the Council had the appropriate facilities to host the pilot schemes in the three aforementioned locations. It was highlighted that a key criteria for any building would be flexibility, as it was not about making mini-Council offices. It was more likely that the hubs would involve some form of co-location with partners or through the use of existing facilities such as libraries.
It was noted that one of the themes of the Labour manifesto was empowerment and providing people with the opportunity to have control over their own lives. Although it was acknowledged that it could be viewed as an underlying theme across the Corporate Plan, it was suggested that further thought should be given to strengthening this theme by including it as a separate priority within the Corporate Plan.
In response to a question about how the new operating model would allow services to be responsive to local need, it was highlighted that successful delivery would be dependent on the information and data available for each area. At present the Council delivered a one size fits all service. If the pilots were successful then it could be transformative with services designed specifically for local areas.
There was a concern that the model could be taking a too top down approach and as such it was questioned how input from local residents could be used to inform services. In response it was highlighted that any project from the Council would initially start out from a top down approach, but with locality based work, it would allow officers to learn from the experience of residents and build trust within the local community.
In response to a question about the different types of information used to inform the database for the project and whether research from the Fairness Commission had been included, it was advised that a wide variety of information was being used. Information provided by Councillors on their local areas would also form a valuable source of information for the project as it developed.
It was highlighted that being able to communicate the new approach to local residents would be key to the new model, as it was essential to take people along with the Council to ensure successful delivery. The pilots would give the Council the opportunity to develop new methods of communication with local communities on a smaller scale.
In response to a question about the potential risks, it was highlighted that although the long term future for public services was largely unknown, it was likely that greater collaboration would be essential. There were also other unknowns such as the impact of Brexit, which meant that public services would need to be more creative about how services were delivered going forward.
From the section of the Chief Executive’s presentation focusing on the Council’s staff, the following points were noted:-
The Chairman of the Committee, Councillor Sean Fitzsimons, thanked the representatives from the Staff Networks for their attendance and asked what the most important issues were for the members of their networks. The representatives from the both the Carers and Women’s Network advised that the consistent application of the agile working policy was the most important issue for their members. The representative from the BAME network advised that the most important issue for his members was the opportunity for progression within the organisation.
As a follow up, it was questioned whether the Groups felt that progress had been made to deliver improvements on these issues. It was advised that senior officers were aware of the consistency issues around agile working and steps were being taken to introduce improvements. It was also advised that the Women’s Network would be looking to survey their members to gain a greater understanding of how the policy was implemented at a local level. The BAME Network representative highlighted that there had been improvements for staff career progression opportunities with the introduction of the leadership programmes, a mentoring scheme and increased secondments opportunities.
Given that the Ofsted report had presented a different view of staff morale, it was questioned whether the Staff Survey results provided a true reflection of staff views. In response, it was highlighted that the return rate for the Staff Survey had been 75%, with a good range of responses from across the Council. It was advised that senior management was aware that there had been an issue with staff not receiving appraisals, which fed into the issues raised by Ofsted.
The improvement to representation within the workforce of the Council was welcomed by the Committee and seen as very encouraging.
In response to a question about whether agency staff had been given the opportunity to complete the Staff Survey, it was confirmed that they had, but the responses for these staff had not been separated from other staff for the purposes of the meeting, but could be made available to the members of the Committee.
The use of agency staff was highlighted as a potential concern, particularly whether these staff would have the same awareness of the corporate ethos as permanent staff. As such it was questioned how it could be ensured that agency staff were instilled with the corporate approach? It was advised that in some areas of the Council, such as Children’s Services there was a high proportion of agency staff employed, who were often on higher wages than permanent staff, which brought challenges. A requirement for agency staff to have supervisions had been brought into effect, which would help to ensure that they were familiar with the ethos of the organisations. A focus was also placed on temporary staff becoming permanent through providing support and opportunities for career progression at the Council.
It was noted that a Back to Basics initiative was being planned and as such a future update was requested once available.
It was requested that it would be useful to have a follow up report on staffing at the Council in twelve months, including an further information on the level of agency staff employed and an update from the Staff Networks.
Committee welcomed the report, and proposed pilots to test the proposed New Operating Model.
Committee also welcomed the improvement in staff satisfaction and the actions taken to achieve this, in particular we welcomed the active engagement of the staff networks, and acceptance that previous organisational restructuring hadn’t worked.
1. That the Cabinet gives further consideration to how the Labour Manifesto pledge to empower local people and communities can be made more explicit within the new Corporate Plan priorities.
2. That detailed analysis from the staff survey, providing information on a departmental level and also relating to Agency staff is shared with the Members of the Scrutiny & Overview Committee.
3. That further information is provided to the Scrutiny & Overview Committee on the outcomes from the Back to Basics initiative, once it is available.
4. That a further report on staffing be brought back to the Scrutiny & Overview Committee in 12 months.