Councillors in Babergh and Mid Suffolk will later this month vote on proposals to improve the delivery of public services.
In a report sent to councillors today ahead of Council Meetings in Babergh on 20 September 2016, and Mid Suffolk on 22 September 2016, elected representatives will debate the Council’s Public Access Strategy which includes deciding on one of the four options available for co-location of the joint Councils headquarters.
“The world of government and the public service sector is being transformed by technology, new ways of working and a challenging financial environment.” said Cllr Jennie Jenkins, Leader of Babergh District Council. “Standing still is not an option. The decision before councillors is to ensure services are better for residents, simpler for staff and more cost effective for taxpayers.”
Options that the Councils will consider are to locate all services to Hadleigh, all services to Needham Market, the sharing of accommodation in Endeavour House with Suffolk County Council and other public sector partners, or consider a new building for the Councils.
“Work has been underway since 2013 on the integration programme for both Councils and the decision ahead of councillors later this month will approve one of the four options set out in today’s report.” said Cllr Glen Horn, Deputy Leader of Mid Suffolk District Council. “The current ways the public access the Council’s services are antiquated, confusing, difficult and bureaucratic. Therefore the status quo is not an option.”
The Public Access Strategy sets out the case for change in today’s report to councillors. The Strategy has a focus on improving access and contact, as well as modernised local services for residents and refining the way the Councils deliver these.
The Strategy also sets out the five key access channels for the local community that will be radically improved following the decision. These are:
Face to Face
While current offices aren’t easily accessible for the public who live some distance from the offices, recommendations before councillors will ensure one access point in each district is established ensuring the public can have a better quality ‘face to face’ interaction with the council.
While telephone contact continues to be the most common access for the public, there is confusion with too many numbers and rising costs. The proposals will see one main phone number, charged at a local rate, channelled through a customer contact centre.
There will be the creation and promotion of a single email address for the Councils, handled by the Customer Contact Centre ensuring a better quality service especially in terms of response times.
Online – Digital Services
With a growing number of residents conducting much of their household business online (i.e. banking, bill payment, shopping etc.) there is a growing demand for better online services. The proposals include a development of one new clearer and simpler website which will include new arrangements to view and comment on planning applications.
Webchat and SMS
‘Webchat’ is an online service that allows the public to speak to organisations while they are using other digital services. Proposals include making webchat available to the public as well as the development of SMS text messaging via the Customer Relationship Management system (CRM).
“There will understandably be a great deal of interest in the main location of where Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils are based following the decision that councillors will make.” said Cllr Jennie Jenkins, Leader of Babergh District Council “We want to ensure that we have a fully integrated workforce, that while considering cost savings, has a focus on the quality of arrangements for the public, staff, Members and partner organisations.”
“The status quo is not an option.” said Cllr Glen Horn, Deputy Leader of Mid Suffolk District Council. “The current occupation of both council buildings will continue to result in inefficiencies and high costs and is a block to full integration and collaboration.”
Babergh District Council meets at 5.30 pm on Tuesday 20 September 2016, to vote on the Public Access Strategy and the option on accommodation and Mid Suffolk District Council meets 5.30 pm on Thursday 22 September 2016.