District Council costing the provision of hubs

J Woodward made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to East Devon District Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Roedd y cais yn rhannol lwyddiannus.

Dear Ms Symington,

I would like to make a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I am also making this Request under the Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 which require disclosure on the part of Local Authorities.

This follows on from an earlier, partially-successful, FOI request:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/o...

BACKGROUND: CABINET DECISION:
In the minutes of the Cabinet meeting of 11th March, reference was made to the provision of 'hubs':
"There needed to be specific provision for District Council hubs/surgeries within the plans and financial models. The Deputy Chief Executive assured Members that district council services would be provided locally in ways that best met residents’ needs. The final detail of this provision was yet to be determined and would be part of a future equalities impact assessment process. Funding would come from the Council’s operational budget."
http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-demo...

Further observations from the meeting confirm this assessment:
"Frances Newth wondered how much the local ‘hubs’ would cost ( Cohen said “Hubs” (his own term!) “is a bit of a misnomer” ). EDDC would provide services, using existing sites where possible, but this would become clearer “when we know what the needs are”."
eastdevonwatch.org/2015/03/12/a-very-noisy-group-of-people-in-sidmouth-have-irritated-cllr-tim-wood/

BACKGROUND: MOBILE WORKING:
My earlier FOI request dealt with the issue of 'hot desking' - and unfortunately, I consider the response inadequate as it failed to answer my questions, directly other than refer to rather bland statements such as 'All jobs because it is part and parcel of good management practice to make sure work takes place at the most effective locations and at the most effective times, respecting the needs of the task, the customer , the individual and the team.'
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/h...

In fact, I would agree with the comment from SOS from April:
"The relocation argument focuses on the as yet untried “Mobile working, WORKSMART initiatives, and Mobile Hubs”, all of which could fail and not provide the promised efficiencies."
saveoursidmouth.com/2015/04/29/councils-final-decision-to-relocate-sos-comment-and-update/

BACKGROUND: NOMENCLATURE:
In one document produced by Karen Jenkins Corporate OD Manager, the District Council talks about providing services beyond its Skypark HQ:
"In addition to this East Devon is currently reviewing facilities across the district to understand what existing space we can use for mobile officers to ‘touch down’ across the district so that they will not need to make unnecessary journeys back to the office."
eastdevonwatch.org/2014/05/25/and-weve-saved-the-best-till-last-how-eddc-is-going-to-transform-itself-when-if-it-moves-to-skypark/comment-page-1/

This document is possibly the Doc 1 referred to in my FOI request
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/o...
but which cannot be read as the link is dead:
eastdevon.gov.uk/relocation_reports_july2011tosept2012.pdf

In this (undated) document, it specifies:
"2.1 It should be noted that we have a general arrangement with the following Town and Parish councils for them to act as ‘local enquiry offices’. This is so that they can be used particularly for customers to view documentation relating to planning.
• Seaton
• Ottery St Mary
• Honiton
• Budleigh Salterton
• Axminster
The first recommendation is that Sidmouth Town Council will be added to this list following our move to SkyPark. This involves £x expenditure."
"2.4 Finally it is recommended that there is a regular surgery in Sidmouth (depending on demand) particularly for the following services:
• Council Tax
• Debt advice (Homemaker)"
"C Which services can only be dealt with by customers visiting Knowle?
• It is considered that we will need to have a presence in Sidmouth so that we can deal with customers who are on a low income and/or vulnerable. After Exmouth and Honiton, Sidmouth represents the third highest area of people on benefits."
"E What other service provision would be required and in which towns if we relocate to SkyPark?
• Looking ahead if we moved to Skypark we would need some service provision located in Sidmouth. Ideally, we would want to be co-located with Housing and Money advice due to the close links we have with these services."
"E What other service provision would be required and in which towns if we relocate to SkyPark?
• Exmouth does need to be improved and we do need a presence in Sidmouth, or Seaton, or Axminster that is more than a weekly drop in service along the lines outlined in 3 above."
"C Which services can only be dealt with by customers visiting Knowle?
• There are no services that can only be dealt with at Knowle, but there would be some disruption to service for some of our housing customers if we ceased service delivery from Sidmouth.
• Many Housing customers are low income and/or vulnerable and find it difficult to travel around the district. Only having a presence in the west of the district (Exmouth and Skypark) could present accessibility problems for some customers so some presence in Sidmouth needs to be considered. This could be in the form of a drop-in surgery, co-location arrangement with a partner agency, Lymebourne office, community centre etc."
" F Do you have existing plans for increasing service provision across the district due to increased demand, irrespective of the office accommodation project?
• The Streetscene new depot proposal in Honiton would provide a central location and improved facilities. Some limited office and meeting space will be available.
• Housing district offices for Mobile Support staff based in the community (Lymebourne, Sidmouth; Dunning Court, Honiton; Popular Mount, Axminster; Palmer House and Burnside, Exmouth) have been successful and could be enhanced as a landing pad for mobile staff. We do not encourage public access at present. We also have facilities for our community development activities at Clayton House, Exmouth and Millway Rise, Axminster with potential for expansion."
https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rc...

REQUEST:
My request under the the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 is very straightforward.

The District Council has been prepared to publish the full costings of:
> renovating Knowle;
> moving to Honiton and Exmouth.

In which case, similar detailed costings will have been made for "hubs/surgeries/touch down facilities/local enquiry offices/presence/some service provision/drop in service/co-location arrangement with a partner agency/office and meeting space/Mobile Support staff based in the community" in other locations in the District.

What will be the costs of the provision of any District Council services beyond its Honiton and Exmouth offices?

I look forward to hearing from you.

With best regards,
Jeremy Woodward

East Devon District Council

Thank you for submitting a request for information. We will respond to your request as quickly as possible, within the 20 working day statutory deadline under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

For updates on this case, please quote your unique reference number 101000371981 .

---------------------------------------
Customer Service Centre
East Devon District Council
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East Devon District Council

Mr Woodward

Thank you for your request for information. You asked "what will be the costs of the provision of any District Council services beyond its Honiton and Exmouth offices following re-location."

The provision of a range of services outside of our main office is already a significant feature of the way that the council operates. As a response to customer demand, we already hold council tax benefit, housing benefit and debt advice drop in sessions in Axminster, Cranbrook, Honiton, Ottery St Mary and Seaton. Officers from housing, planning, environmental health, building control and other services are working across the district in ways that our residents and businesses find accessible and useful.

For 2014/15, the costs of providing these services was as follows:
Local Enquiry Offices: £12,630 (£2,526 for each location ? Seaton, Axminster, Budleigh Salterton, Ottery St Mary and Honiton)
Housing "cluster" offices: £13,976.74
Exmouth Town Hall (Housing Needs): £3,130.80
Revs and Bens "surgeries": £4,713 (Seaton, Axminster, Honiton and Cranbrook)

We do not hold information as to the predicted future costs but do not anticipate that the re-location of our main offices will change these costs significantly.

Our relocation to Honiton and Exmouth sites will naturally involve the Council looking at the opportunity to review its presence in suitable locations across the district and build this into our forward planning and service improvement. East Devon District Council is a systems thinking council which means that we look at customer demand to determine how we deliver services. We budget for this principally through our overall budgetary process, and will continue to do so.

We will continue to look at demand to determine how, and if, we need to provide a presence in places across the district. Clearly, relocation will mean that we want to look at impact on, and provision in, Sidmouth in particular but new ways to access Council services are a good thing in their own right, of district wide value and already underway.

We will also use our Best Value and Equality consultation to help us understand where else, and in what manner, our services may be required into the future.

I hope this is helpful.

If you feel dissatisfied with the way we have responded to your request, please contact our MOnitoring Officer to request an internal review at [email address]

You may also approach the Information Commissioner for advice at www.ico.gov.uk

Regards

Kate Symington
Information and Complaints Officer
East Devon District Council

01395 517417
www.eastdevon.gov.uk

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Dear Ms Symington,

Thank you for the information, and for responding within the 20 day period.

You state that: ‘We do not hold information as to the predicted future costs.’
I do find it not only disappointing but very worrying that the Council has not costed into its relocation proposals the outgoings it expects to incur with such a significant project.
To simply rely on current costs does not make sense - especially since the political leadership at EDDC have for some time made much of promising provision of services in the District at various ‘hubs’ and the like (see my references above).

Furthermore, the answers you did provide were not particularly precise.
In which case, I would be grateful if you could provide me with the following:
> The Council’s review of ‘its presence in suitable locations across the district’.
> The Council’s systems by which it looks at ‘customer demand to determine how [it] delivers services’.
> The Council’s ‘overall budgetary process’ which will show what has been budgeted for.
> Specifically, the Council’s anticipated costs for services to be provided in Sidmouth.
> The Council’s stated policy of ‘new ways to access Council services’.
> How the ‘Best Value and Equality consultation’ will exactly help the Council 'understand where else, and in what manner, [its] services may be required into the future.’

I look forward to hearing from you.
With best regards,
Jeremy Woodward

East Devon District Council

Dear Mr Woodward,

Thank you for your request for information. Please find the response to your query below.

The Council's review of 'its presence in suitable locations across the district'.
This draft discussion document is available to view on our project document archive (3) online http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/1255876/3-... You should view this document in the context of its inclusion in a historical archive as the report is based upon the council moving to SkyPark and so many of the points raised are no longer relevant today.
The Council will maintain a flexible approach to service provision now and in the future using customer consultation to inform where and how our customers would like to be able to access our services. I confirm that, at this point in time, no further information is held in relation to this which is not already published, or due for future publication, through our document archive. You may wish to be aware that more recent documents are currently being prepared for online publication.

The Council's systems by which it looks at 'customer demand to determine how [it] delivers services'.
The council uses systems thinking to understand customer demand. We monitor the different routes through which customers access our services. We also carry out formal consultation exercises and satisfaction surveys and, where appropriate, we pilot schemes prior to making service changes. We also act on feedback received from local partner agencies and via forums such as the Housing Review Board. In terms of providing you with information about this, no generic detail is held as this work is all service specific.

The Council's 'overall budgetary process' which will show what has been budgeted for.
This question is quite broad. Information about the council's finances and budgetary processes can be accessed here http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-demo... . The council sets its budgets on an annual basis based on historic cost, known price increases/decreases and predicted change in volume/demand for services and funding. The link above will take you to our detailed budget book for each service. In terms of the budget for future provision of surgeries/hubs we have advised that no detail is held on this but have also expressed our view that the re-location of the council's main office is unlikely to have a significant impact upon these costs in the future.

Specifically, the Council's anticipated costs for services to be provided in Sidmouth.
As advised, we do not hold information on the predicted cost for services to be provided in Sidmouth following the office re-location

The Council's stated policy of 'new ways to access Council services'.
No policy is held in relation to this. The council regularly monitors service provision and always seeks to enable customers to access our services in a way which is most convenient for them.

How the 'Best Value and Equality consultation' will exactly help the Council 'understand where else, and in what manner, [its] services may be required into the future.'
This is not a request for information ? you are asking here for our view which is that the consultation provides us with an opportunity for residents and community partners to give the council their views on how we can best meet their service needs in the future.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you feel dissatisfied with the way we have responded to your request, please contact our Monitoring Officer, Henry Gordon Lennox at [email address] to request an internal review.

You may also approach the Information Commissioner for advice at www.ico.gov.uk

Regards

Kate

Kate Symington
Information and Complaints Officer
East Devon District Council

01395 517417
www.eastdevon.gov.uk

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Dear Ms Symington,

Thank you for your response.

I have further questions:

1) See my new FOI request re the ‘historical’ decision to move to SkyPark.

2) What ‘customer consultation’ is envisaged to ‘inform where and how [your] customers would like to be able to access our services’?

3) What is meant by ‘systems thinking’?

4) What are the tools by which you ‘monitor the different routes through which customers access [your] services’?

5) Which ‘formal consultation exercises and satisfaction surveys’ have you carried out in the last six years?

6) Which ‘schemes prior to making service changes’ have you piloted during the past six years and are currently planning to pilot?

7) What is the basis for your ‘view’ that ‘the re-location of the council's main office is unlikely to have a significant impact upon these costs in the future’?

8) You state that you ‘do not hold information on the predicted cost for services to be provided in Sidmouth following the office re-location’. Can you explain why this has not been costed into the full calculations for relocation?

9) How does the Council determine how your ‘customers’ are able ‘to access [your] services in a way which is most convenient for them’?

Thank you again.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,
Jeremy Woodward

Kate Symington, East Devon District Council

Mr Woodward

 

Thank you for your email. Please find our answers to your questions
below....

 

1) See my new FOI request re the ‘historical’ decision to move to SkyPark.

Noted

 

2) What ‘customer consultation’ is envisaged to ‘inform where and how
[your] customers would like to be able to access our services’?
Please follow this link for more information
[1]http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/1243178/11...

 

3) What is meant by ‘systems thinking’?

You can find more information here [2]www.vanguard.co.uk

 

4) What are the tools by which you ‘monitor the different routes through
which customers access [your] services’?

Management tools and systems thinking principles

 

5) Which ‘formal consultation exercises and satisfaction surveys’ have you
carried out in the last six years?

This question is very broad. Consultation can be carried out by any
service within the council. Can you be more specific here about what you
need?

 

6) Which ‘schemes prior to making service changes’ have you piloted during
the past six years and are currently planning to pilot?

We are unclear what you need here – please can you be more specific about
the information you need?

 

7) What is the basis for your ‘view’ that ‘the re-location of the
council's main office is unlikely to have a significant impact upon these
costs in the future’?

The cost of surgeries is minimal and this view is based on the costs which
we already incur and which have been provided to you previously.

 

8) You state that you ‘do not hold information on the predicted cost for
services to be provided in Sidmouth following the office re-location’. Can
you explain why this has not been costed into the full calculations for
relocation?

Because we have not consulted yet and have not made decisions about what
will be available in Sidmouth after we move.

 

9) How does the Council determine how your ‘customers’ are able ‘to access
[your] services in a way which is most convenient for them’?

By providing services through all channels as much as possible.

 

I hope this further clarification is helpful and should remind you that,
if you feel dissatisfied with the way we have responded to your request,
you may refer this matter to our Monitoring Officer at
[3][email address]

 

 

Kate

 

Mrs Kate Symington

Information and Complaints Officer

East Devon District Council

 

01395 517417

www.eastdevon.gov.uk

 

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References

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1. http://eastdevon.gov.uk/media/1243178/11...
2. http://www.vanguard.co.uk/
3. mailto:[email address]

Dear Ms Symington,

Thank you for your response. I can be reasonably satisfied with a few of your answers. However, I fear most of my questions have not been answered adequately.

4) You refer to your tools by which you ‘monitor the different routes through which customers access [your] services’ as 'management tools and systems thinking principles'.
Which specific tools and principles are these? I would like a much more detailed answer please.

5) You find my question 'very broad' - and yet I am simply quoting your own phrasing and I simply wished to have clarification on what the Council itself means when it says it has carried out ‘formal consultation exercises and satisfaction surveys’
Again, could you specify which ‘formal consultation exercises and satisfaction surveys’ you refer to in your reply to me of 2nd September (paragraph beginning 'The Council's systems...').

6) Similarly, you state that you find it is 'unclear' what it is that I need. And yet is is me who is asking you to be 'clear' about the terminology which you are using.
Again, could you specify which ‘schemes prior to making service changes’ you have piloted during the past six years and are currently planning to pilot - which, again, you refer to in your reply to me of 2nd September (paragraph beginning 'The Council's systems...').

7) I must apologise for not noting what you have previously provided me with regard to the costs of surgeries.
I would be grateful, therefore, if you could either point me again to this link/reference/reply or if you could once more provide me with the figures for the cost of surgeries. Thank you.

8) Can you explain how you are able to estimate the total cost of relocation without having 'made decisions about what will be available in Sidmouth after we move'?
As part of your planning for relocation, estimates must nevertheless have been made with regard to 'the predicted cost for services to be provided in Sidmouth following the office re-location’.
Again, which estimates have been made for services/hubs/surgeries for Sidmouth following relocation?
I would like to add to this a request for information about the estimates which have been made for services/hubs/surgeries in general following relocation - that is, for other centres in the District.

Thank you.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Woodward

Kate Symington, East Devon District Council

Mr Woodward

I confirm that we have provided all relevant information held in respect of your request. If you feel dissatisfied with our response, you may contact the Monitoring Officer to request an internal review at [email address]

In respect of your point 7, I refer you to my email of 7th July which included detail about the current cost of providing services through local enquiry offices.

Regards

Kate

Mrs Kate Symington
Information and Complaints Officer
East Devon District Council

01395 517417
www.eastdevon.gov.uk

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Ms Symington,

Thank you for your reply.

I am not sure what you mean by stating that you "have provided all relevant information held" - as your own previous set of responses on 7th September threw up several questions which I then sought clarification on.

To reiterate:

4) You refer to your tools by which you ‘monitor the different routes through which customers access [your] services’ as 'management tools and systems thinking principles'.
Which specific tools and principles are these? I would like a much more detailed answer please.

5) You find my question 'very broad' - and yet I am simply quoting your own phrasing and I simply wished to have clarification on what the Council itself means when it says it has carried out ‘formal consultation exercises and satisfaction surveys’
Again, could you specify which ‘formal consultation exercises and satisfaction surveys’ you refer to in your reply to me of 2nd September (paragraph beginning 'The Council's systems...').

6) Similarly, you state that you find it is 'unclear' what it is that I need. And yet is is me who is asking you to be 'clear' about the terminology which you are using.
Again, could you specify which ‘schemes prior to making service changes’ you have piloted during the past six years and are currently planning to pilot - which, again, you refer to in your reply to me of 2nd September (paragraph beginning 'The Council's systems...').

8) Can you explain how you are able to estimate the total cost of relocation without having 'made decisions about what will be available in Sidmouth after we move'?
As part of your planning for relocation, estimates must nevertheless have been made with regard to 'the predicted cost for services to be provided in Sidmouth following the office re-location’.
Again, which estimates have been made for services/hubs/surgeries for Sidmouth following relocation?
I would like to add to this a request for information about the estimates which have been made for services/hubs/surgeries in general following relocation - that is, for other centres in the District.

As the Council has failed to address these requests for clarification, I feel I must now ask for an internal review.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Woodward

Kate Symington, East Devon District Council

This is an automated reply.

 

Please note that I will not be able to respond to your message until
Tuesday 27th October 2015.

 

If you wish to make a complaint or submit a request for information under
the Freedom of Information Act, please refer to our website at
[1]www.eastdevon.gov.uk or phone 01395 516551 during office hours.

 

 

 

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References

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Henry Gordon Lennox, East Devon District Council

Mr Woodward,

 

I am sorry that you feel dissatisfied with our handling of your request.
Going back to your original request, you asked for ‘costs of the provision
of any District Council services beyond [the council's main offices] in
Honiton and Exmouth…’ following the re-location.

 

We have provided you with historic cost information to give an idea of the
amount of money spent on the provision of local offices or "hubs" within
the district and it has been explained that there is nothing to suggest
that our re-location will significantly change these costs but that no
further detailed cost information is currently held. Accordingly, I too
confirm to you that no further information is held in respect of your
original request.

 

You then raised a number of supplementary questions and requests for
clarification and in trying to assist we have tried to provide this to you
where it has been possible to do so, whilst recognising that this was not
part of your original request for information.

 

In respect of your point 8), please refer back to the original answer to
this request which was dated 7^th July 2015 and forms part of the chain of
correspondence under this particular question.

 

There is nothing further to add and, as advised and to reiterate, there is
no information held relating to the cost of the provision of these
services, other than that which has already been provided.

 

If you remain dissatisfied with our response, you have the right to refer
the matter to the Information Commissioner at [1]www.ico.gov.uk.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

HENRY GORDON LENNOX

 

Strategic Lead - Legal, Licensing and Democratic Services

East Devon District Council

Tel: 01395 517401

Ext: 2601

Email: [email address]

 

References

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