Agenda item

Council Strategy 2022-2026 Consultation


The Chairman welcomed those present to the meeting.  Mr Tony Zaman, the Council’s Interim Chief Executive, advised that the report gave details of the Council’s strategy, rather than providing Members with a plan, which set out the authority’s ambitions over the next four years.  The anticipated outcomes would provide benefits for the Borough’s residents, such as carbon reduction.  There would be an annual plan that would be developed that would underpin the strategy to help deliver these outcomes in line with the Medium Term Financial Forecast (MTFF).  Although individual issues would still be measured, they could be brought together in a single narrative. 


Mr Dan Kennedy, the Council’s Corporate Director of Central Services, advised that this was a high level strategy document that set out the Council’s ambitions for its residents at a place level.  It set out five commitments to residents: 1) safe and strong communities; 2) thriving, healthy households; 3) a green and sustainable Borough; 4) a thriving economy; and 5) a digital-enabled, modern, well-run Council. 


Consultation on the draft Council Strategy 2022-2026 had started on 8 July 2022 and would end on 9 September 2022.  It had been promoted through various communication channels including through social media and proactive contact had been made with around 350 organisations from across the Borough.  The document would be finalised in October and ready for consideration by Council on 17 November 2022. 


It was agreed that the Committee would want to look at the relevant plans once they had been developed.  Members were keen to see a link between the high level aspirations for the authority and how that translated into actual performance.  Furthermore, they requested that a baseline was provided to establish the impact (positive or negative) of any changes that were subsequently made. 


Mr Zaman advised that phrases such as ‘more than’ and ‘less than’ had been avoided as it had been recognised that things changed.  Service plans would provide a baseline along with an explanation of any changes that were apparent in the results.  A balanced scorecard-type approach would be used to help the Council to achieve continuous improvement. 


Consideration was given to the digitisation agenda and the impact that this would have on services within the Committee’s remit.  Mr Zaman noted that this would be more about how services were supported rather than how they were delivered.  Members were assured that digital did not mean automating all telephone calls and that officers would still be available to deal with complex enquiries and vulnerable residents.  The digital agenda would mean different things in different areas of the Council.  To some extent, there would be a need to enable residents to become good consumers of the services provided.


It was recognised that technology provided opportunities but that some residents would not be able to use it.  As such, the Council would not be assuming complete change without providing alternative options for engagement to ensure that these individuals were not disenfranchised.  Mr Zaman advised that the Council had intelligence with regard to how receptive different residents would be in different parts of the Borough to digital services which meant that a tailored approach could be developed. 


Members were advised that a lot of the technology already being used had been based on artificial intelligence (AI).  Members were advised that telephone services could be built up using commonly used phrases to make the conversation more fluid but that there would always a point during an automated call where the caller could opt to speak to a person.  Mr Zaman advised that, when the development had progressed sufficiently, officers would be able to provide Members of the Committee with a demonstration. 


Members applauded visionary thinking and felt that, when the interaction was transactional, AI was a good fit.  However, as soon as there was a problem, the caller needed to talk to a person.  It would be important to have strong plans with real markers of progress to ensure that the system was working and continuously adapting to the locality and the information that was available. 


It was agreed that the Democratic Services Manager would draft the comments of the Committee for inclusion in the report to Cabinet. 


RESOLVED:  That the Committee’s comments on the Council Strategy 2022-26 be submitted to Cabinet. 

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