Agenda and minutes

Finance and Corporate Services Select Committee - Tuesday, 18th July, 2023 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 5 - Civic Centre. View directions

Contact: Liz Penny  Email:

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Gursharan Mand with Councillor Raju Sansarpuri substituting.


Declarations of interest in matters coming before this meeting


There were no declarations of interest.


Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 239 KB


RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting dated 21 June 2023 be approved as an accurate record.


To confirm that the items of business marked as Part I will be considered in Public and that the items marked as Part II will be considered in Private


It was confirmed that all items of business were in Part I and would be considered in public.


Digitalisation of the Contact Centre pdf icon PDF 172 KB


Dan Kennedy, Corporate Director of Resources, and Louise Forster, Head of Customer Access, presented the report to the Select Committee.


Members heard that Hillingdon was committed to being a digital-enabled, modern, well-run Council. Since its launch in 2021, new technology had been introduced to support residents with their use of My Account. It was reported that 40% of contacts were now handled with new technology. The next phase of development would cover three areas – waste, housing repairs and social care.


Members were advised that the contact centre had access to a wealth of information regarding resident contacts; this information was being used to create a more efficient and digitally oriented service. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) had been brought in to pull together 28 different stories that could be digitalised, and My Account would be centred around these stories covering all services. It was acknowledged that this was a challenge as the contact centre received some 15,000-16,000 calls per month and had recorded 1700 different reasons for calls in 2022 alone.


It was confirmed that the Council had worked with PWC to introduce Amazon Web Services (AWS). The first service for which AWS had been introduced was Housing Repairs as this service received the highest volume of calls. PWC had led the project with input from contact centre staff and the first AWS service had gone live in November 2022. Under the new system, residents were asked why they were contacting the Council and, where possible, a response would be provided or a link to the online system to enable the resident to report the issue. If residents could not access the online system, they would still be given an option to speak to someone in the contact centre. Following the successful introduction of the AWS system for Housing Repairs, the new AWS system had now gone live for all Council services. As a result of these changes, contact centre staffing had reduced by 17 posts.


Members were reassured that support would be provided to residents experiencing difficulties with the technology or with setting up My Account. The offer of support was also being rolled out in libraries and the aim was to provide a wrap-around support service to encourage residents to adopt the new approach. Councillors welcomed the introduction of support services in libraries.


In response to questions from Members regarding issues encountered by residents and how these were addressed, it was confirmed that now was the time for reflection and review. Emergency housing repairs calls were directed immediately to an agent while routine queries could be dealt with online. It was recognised that residents sometimes failed to speak hence technology was being explored to manage the silence and give people options. The contact centre had an assisted list of people who consistently struggled with the system and these residents would be automatically passed to an agent. Moreover, AWS was being updated to recognise some of the specific vocabulary regularly used by residents such as ‘Locata’.


In response to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Digitalisation of the Council's Human Resources Function pdf icon PDF 260 KB


Suzi Horn, Head of HR, presented the report to the Committee. Members heard that, following a restructure in 2022, the HR department now had two separate subject matter specialist teams – one dedicated to HR matters and one to recruitment. The HR department aimed to be digital by default, but the current systems did not interface with each other which was challenging. It was confirmed that, over the summer, the Learning and Development system would be upgraded to enable it to interface with the HR system.


Councillors were informed that Resourcelink was to be optimised to make it more efficient. Recruitment was a key area of focus, and it was important to raise the profile of the employer brand.


In terms of HR operations, it was confirmed that approximately seven queries were received from each staff member every year – officers were exploring the nature of these enquiries and aimed to introduce changes to free up officers’ time thereby enabling them to work on other matters.


In relation to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, the Council aimed to ensure the workforce was representative of the Borough. A culture in which people felt a sense of belonging and were heard was vital to staff wellbeing.


In response to questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that the fundamental HR structure was now in place, but some tweaks would be required going forward. It was important to take staff on a journey and raise awareness as to how they could self-serve and interact differently with HR in the future. A culture change was needed to enable the HR Department to operate at full capacity. Some progress had already been made – previously 800 staff members had been receiving paper payslips – this number had now reduced to 30.


Members enquired how this culture change could be achieved more quickly and effectively. Councillors were informed that HR were engaging with CMT, and the message was being filtered down from the top. Changes were being introduced in the way HR engaged with managers; it was important for the HR team to advise managers how things should be done and support them through the process. Lean and operational excellence was striven for in order to reduce waste.


Councillors sought clarification in respect of turnover figures and what was being done to retain staff and explore why people left the Council. It was confirmed that attrition was currently 14% which was not considered too bad. An exit questionnaire was being re-introduced to establish reasons for leaving. ‘Stay’ interviews were also proposed to ascertain what motivated people to stay in their jobs.  Open conversations with employees were important and managers should not shy away from having those conversations. An employee engagement survey would be completed in 2023 to obtain staff feedback.


Members noted that, in the corporate world, HR tended to be more proactive than reactive. They sought clarification regarding employee incentives and mediation in Hillingdon. In response to this, the Committee heard that, in the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.


Cabinet Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 243 KB

Additional documents:


RESOLVED: That the Cabinet Forward Plan be noted.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 146 KB

Additional documents:


HR was suggested as a possible review topic for the Select Committee. It was noted that implementation of the planned changes would take some time, but it was thought to be a topic worthy of consideration– areas to focus on would include home working, direction of travel and what success will look like.


Councillors were keen to visit the contact centre and it was agreed that a site visit would be added to the work programme.


RESOLVED: That a site visit to the contact centre be added to the Work Programme and that the Work Programme be noted