Members considered a report providing a benefits analysis and financial
business case for the refurbishment of the Customer Hub.
The Strategic Lead for Customer First introduced the report, and highlighted the following points:
· The number of customers entering the ground floor over a number of years had remained stable but the type of customers being seen now were very different;
· Other partners had now joined West Lindsey District Council (WLDC) in the Guildhall. This was alongside regular surgeries for the local MP and others;
· Face to face interactions tended to be more complex; the number of customers were using the space for longer;
· Digital interaction with customers was available, however further digital technology was required on the ground floor;
· The ‘Customer First’ agenda would change the way visitors to the Guildhall received service. WLDC had changed the way it operated to assure tenants they still had the same tenancy rights;
· Large consultations on the ground floor could be a struggle because of the current space configuration;
· There would be a drive to serve those customers with a easy to solve query quickly; the idea would be to operate a triage facility in the first instance;
· Better management of the flow of customers would help WLDC from a health and safety point of view;
· There was a constant struggle for confidential space, in particular, interview rooms. With surgeries also taking place this had led to increased demand. The plans tried to create an increased number of formal interview rooms, and an increase in quieter areas;
· The service space on the ground floor currently had a range of PCs, however they were locked down for a specific purpose. If a large number of people were using these PCs for job searches they automatically became unavailable. In addition, these workstations were not private as they faced into the reception area;
· A ‘quick transaction’ area had been created in the plans, along with a ‘sit-down’ space for longer engagements;
· There were times where engagement sessions, such as jobs clubs took place; this had been addressed with the addition of a multi-use area. These sessions also used space on the 1st and 3rd Floors when the ground floor was not available, which was not ideal.
Following this introduction, Members then provided comment, and asked questions on the report. Further information was provided:
· It was important to put the customer at the centre of everything WLDC do, including tenants and partners;
· The tank room in the plans was for oil and water storage;
· The Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) were spoken to about a level of change on the ground floor, and whether they would contribute financially to this. Because of difficulty in speaking to the Secretary of State, the idea of financial contributions from the DWP was not progressed;
· Paint will be refreshed in the DWP area of the ground floor. It would be preferable to create some space at the Spring Gardens end of the ground floor;
· The waiting area was a growth area, and there needed to be capacity to develop it in the future should the need arise;
· There was a dog kennel in the ground floor area for stray dogs to be housed until they were picked up by the relevant authorities;
· The budget for this project had initially been £515,000, but had now reduced to under £350,000;
· Other locations had been considered for the Customer Hub, including Lord Street and the Medical Centre, however these locations did not materialise;
· The Guildhall was occupied by WLDC rent free, as the running cost of the building was covered by rent received from other partners;
· Work could commence in January. There would be three phases to this work, which should be completed by June 2020 or shortly after;
· Leases now agreed by WLDC would include a rent review.
Some Members of the committee reflected negatively on the report, and felt that if it had been part of the budget consultation exercise, the public would not have supported it. Other feedback on the report from these Members included:
o A landlord making improvements for the tenant should expect some capital contributions, or a rent review;
o The money could be recovered in a rent increase;
o There were no baby changing facilities; however it was explained that there had been no requests from staff or partners for these facilities;
o A full consultation should have taken place on this issue before coming before committee;
Officers responded by saying that a consultation had taken place with the staff that would be affected by these changes. They would also be involved in the final layout of the ground floor. The detail of how customer service staff would be relocated would be done as a separate part of this programme.
During debate, an alternative proposal had been put forward to defer this report until financial contributions from partner organisations had been explored. This had been moved and seconded. When it was put to the vote, this alternative recommendation was not agreed.
The committee returned to the original recommendations, and the Chairman proposed from the Chair two additional recommendations. These were moved and seconded, and it was RESOLVED to:
(1) Refurbish the Customer Hub;
(2) Contract for further design and build activities under a SCAPE framework with Lindum Construction;
(3) Support project expenditure of up to £350k to be funded from the Property Asset Fund Earmarked Reserve to cover the cost of the refurbishment and internal costs;
(4) To re-use the remaining earmarked reserve allocated originally to this project of £150k for refurbishment and changes to the 3rd floor;
(5) Consider locations with the revised plans for baby changing facilities;
(6) Involve the Joint Staff Consultative Committee in consultations with the 2nd floor move.
Councillor Trevor Young asked that his vote against the recommendations be recorded.