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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee rooms D & E - Merton Civic Centre, London Road, Morden SM4 5DX. View directions

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies were received from Councillor Ed Gretton.


Declarations of pecuniary interest


There were no declarations of pecuniary interest.


Minutes of last meeting - 17 July 2019 pdf icon PDF 65 KB


The minutes were agreed as an accurate record of the meeting, subject to two factual changes:


·         Page 2 – the one off savings were £1.1m, not £1.1k

·         Page 3 – “housing property council” to be changed to “housing property company”

ACTION: Head of Democracy Services to make changes and re-publish minutes


Customer Contact Programme - Lessons Learned pdf icon PDF 57 KB

Additional documents:


The Assistant Director of Customers, Policy and Improvement, Sophie Ellis, introduced the report, highlighting the aspects of the customer contact programme that had gone well, those that had gone less well and what lessons had been learned and steps taken to ensure that the learning is shared.


Discussion with the task group explored the balance between using internal staff with a stake in the long term future of the project and bringing in external experts; the extent to which the project was an ambitious one that sought to have a single user log-in (compared to the multiple interfaces that other councils have); the balance between agility and cost particularly in relation to having one large contract compared to several smaller ones and the use of break clauses. The importance of effective change management was also discussed and how the extent to which this was needed could never be underestimated. Sophie Ellis confirmed that this was being considered and resources applied to other projects and programmes.


Sophie Ellis reassured the task group that, even though there was always scope for further user involvement, there had been large scale customer insight work at the start of the programme that had created customer profiles that were used to inform the programme at key stages.


The Director of Corporate Services, Caroline Holland, reminded members that the programme had a long history and that councillors had been critical of a lack of ambition in an earlier proposal for a “CRM lite” approach. She said officers had taken that on board in the subsequent customer contact strategy and associated website development. In response to a question about whether officers and councillors had been over-ambitious, both Caroline Holland and Sophie Ellis said that Merton’s aspiration to be London’s Best Council demonstrated that the council’s ethos is to be ambitious and that it hadn’t been over ambitious in this instance.


Task group members said that a number of the lessons learned were already known from the experience of other large scale public sector projects. Sophie Ellis said that the council had been mindful of that wider experience and had taken steps to address this. For example, although external expertise had been used, including a specialist contract lawyer, the programme had still encountered difficulties and lessons learned required future programmes to focus on how to manage difficulties as they arise and how to achieve the best balance between outcomes and cost. Caroline Holland added that, although a number of new systems have been subsequently introduced, this was the first major new IT system for many years and so one of the learning points was to look at how to help staff to get involved in shaping change as well as adapting to it.


In response to questions about the monitoring and enforcement of the contract, Caroline Holland said that  those aspects had been successful and enabled a good proportion of the outcomes to be delivered despite the staffing and other issues experienced by the contractor which have previously  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Financial monitoring report - Quarter 1, 2019/20

To be sent separately to task group members as an exempt document until report has been cleared for public publication.


Open minute of closed session

The Director of Corporate Services, Caroline Holland, introduced the report and summarised the content. She drew the task group’s attention to the £700k overspend that is currently forecast for the end of the year. She stressed that the three month report is early in the year in terms of the forecasts for both the revenue and capital budgets and said that the increase in debt is typical for this stage of the year. She added that the quarterly monitoring report excludes information on the business rates pilot that could potentially bring in an additional £1.5m of income.


Caroline Holland, Roger Kershaw (Assistant Director of Resources) and David Keppler (Head of Revenues and benefits) provided additional information on specific sections of the report in response to questions:


Environment and Regeneration

Waste services – the non-budgeted internal debt charge arose due to an error in assigning the capital costs for vehicles.


Caroline Holland undertook to clarify what arrangement the council had made in relation to the removal of side waste that was reported in the Wimbledon Guardian. ACTION: Director of Corporate Services


Members noted that Veolia would be attending a meeting of the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel on 3 September, providing an opportunity to ask questions about operational and contractual issues.


Children Schools and Families

Caroline Holland said that there was ongoing discussion with the department in order to identify the level of growth that will be needed.


Dedicated Schools Grant – Caroline Holland said that the £800m put aside by the government to assist with DSG budgets nationally would not go far, that developments were awaited on this and it was an area of concern for the council.


Community and Housing

The predicted overspends this year are marginal and are being addressed by the department.


Caroline Holland undertook to ensure that the next quarterly monitoring report would contain more information on the Public Health budget. ACTION: Director of Corporate Services


Capital Programme

The cost of repairs to or rebuild of the Bishopford Road Bridge and whether this will be covered by insurance will depend on the reason for its collapse. It is currently being inspected by structural engineers.


Morden regeneration update – currently awaiting funding confirmation from Transport for London, seeking a joint venture partner and working to clarify ballot conditions.

Miscellaneous debt update

David Keppler reported that the arrangement whereby a portion of housing benefit debt that had previously been written off was passed to a third party to collect and to share proceeds fifty-fifty had raised about £25k in the first two months of operation. He said that the longer term projections would become clear shortly. He reminded members that in future a lower level of housing benefit debt will be accrued and written off in future due to new data matching processes that have been introduced.


David Keppler undertook to provide an explanation for the unbudgeted surplus in the Housing Benefit budget referred to on page 5 of the report.

ACTION:  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Dates and agenda items for future meetings pdf icon PDF 35 KB


The task group AGREED the work programme set out in the report and AGREED to add the item on social care charging to the agenda for the February meeting.


The task group also AGREED that it would have a private briefing session on treasury management immediately prior to its meeting on 12 November and AGREED that invitations should be extended to all councillors.