The Board considered the Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) Business Plan 2020-2023 which was introduced by the Head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS).
It was explained to Members that the Business Plan served a number of purposes that would inform the development of the service in the future. It was drawn to Members attention that there had been little clarity on Local Authority funding and that there was an ongoing lack of clarity. It was recognized that there was an added difficulty in that there were 6 partner councils on the WRS Board who all experienced their own levels of financial pressures.
The Head of WRS confirmed that income generation was the main focus for WRS going forward. It was made clear that clients of WRS were not necessarily looking for more services but more efficiency within the organisation. The Head of WRS explained that there was a need to create more income and the new Ministry of Defence contract was an example of the kind of work that will be undertaken in the future. The awarding of the contract had much to do with the experience of highly experienced, thoroughly trained and well thought of WRS officers.
The Head of WRS said that the Business Plan still contained potential options for partners to build other services into the WRS arrangement. He mentioned environmental health housing standards, enviro-crime and other enforcement related functions as being things that partners could consider adding as a means of creating efficiencies and possible savings but that clearly a business case would need to be made and considered by all partners. The Head of WRS reminded Members that WRS does have a reserve of £100k to protect the 6 partner councils in the event of funding difficulties.
The questions that were asked were as follows:
Councillor Kent, Bromsgrove District Council, questioned whether there could be key performance indicators added to the plan (page 27 of the Business Plan) as he was disappointed that there was still ongoing discussions regarding the website revamp and nothing had been actioned. He added that having 6 payment engines to receive payments through the website was untenable and that there needed to be a resolution that simplifies the way that customers make payments online. He also requested that officers provide a breakdown of the ICT costs that have already been incurred by the service.
The Head of WRS stated that there had been an ICT working group with the Executive Director Finance and Resources was involved in. However, it needed to be re-invigorated. WRS were working closely with the Finance teams at Bromsgrove District and Redditch Borough Councils to ensure that the new Finance IT system would interface with the WRS systems in order to work more effectively. Members acknowledged that this was encouraging however wanted it noted that there needed to be a resolution to the 6 payment systems that were currently in place. It was confirmed that Members would be informed of the timeframes as soon as they are known by WRS officers.
Councillor Stokes, Wychavon District Council asked exactly what WRS officers were doing to ensure that the £100k reserve would remain intact and it was confirmed by the Head of WRS that WRS were trying to broaden their services and their customers including other public bodies, such as hospitals. These kinds of contracts could include providing public services with frameworks for staff training.
Councillor Raine, Malvern District Council drew Members attention to the ‘Picture of the plan’ on page 28 of and questioned why ‘cross skilling’ was looked at separately and not as part of flexible working. The Head or WRS explained that cross skilling was important to stop WRS officers only being highly skilled in one area and ensuring that as well as having a specialism the officers had a broader range of skills in multiple areas.
Councillor Jones, Bromsgrove District Council questioned why, in the table on page 48 the ‘Service provision complies with Government requirements’. The Head of WRS confirmed that the Food Standards Agency had audited the services and were very happy with the level of service provision.
Members requested an update on the ICT systems at the next meeting which officers confirmed they would provide to the Board.
RESOLVED to note the Business Plan 2020-2023