AGENDA ITEM NO. 5
DEMOCRATIC SERVICES COMMITTEE
29th NOVEMBER 2013

Review of current staffing provision to discharge democratic services functions.

To consider and comment on the following issues:

    To give further consideration to the adequacy of provision by the authority of staff to discharge democratic services functions

Reasons:

At its meeting held on 3rd September, 2013 following consideration of the annual review of the adequacy of provision by the authority of staff, accommodation and other resources to discharge democratic services functions, the Committee decided:

    i) that a further report be submitted detailing the impact on Members of the increased workload on the Chair’s Office and Member Support section, and its knock on effect on the Constitutional and Committee Support Section, as a consequence of a recently vacated post remaining unfilled and the introduction of webcasting of meetings;
    ii) that the concerns relating to current staff support for the Council’s Scrutiny functions be raised with the Assistant Chief Executive [People Management and Performance].

To be referred for decision / consultation to:
Scrutiny Committee: N/A
Executive Board: N/A
Council for decision: YES

Directorate:
Chief Executive’s

Report Author:
Colin Davies

Designations:

Head of Democratic Services

Tel Nos. / E-Mail Addresses:

01267 224029
crdavies@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
DEMOCRATIC SERVICES COMMITTEE
29th NOVEMBER 2013

Review of current staffing provision to discharge
democratic services functions.

The committee will recall that at its meeting held on 3rd September, 2013 following consideration of the annual review of the adequacy of provision by the authority of staff, accommodation and other resources to discharge democratic services functions, the Committee decided:

    i) that a further report be submitted detailing the impact on Members of the increased workload on the Chair’s Office and Member Support section, and its knock on effect on the Constitutional and Committee Support Section, as a consequence of a recently vacated post remaining unfilled and the introduction of webcasting of meetings;
    ii) that the concerns relating to current staff support for the Council’s Scrutiny functions be raised with the Assistant Chief Executive [People Management and Performance].

    Staffing Democratic Services Unit.
    The Committee will recall that the Executive Board at its meeting held on 18th March, 2013 decided:
    1.to proceed with a one-year pilot for the filming of Council meetings
    2.that towards the end of the pilot period a review be undertaken to establish whether the webcasting of meetings had been successful in promoting local democracy and public engagement.
    Following a brief training session of DSU staff o 07/05/13 the first recording of a Council meeting was undertaken on 08/05/13 with a view to undertaking the first live webcast at the Annual meeting to be held on 15th May, 2013.
    It became obvious from the outset that providing this service would not be as straight forward as first appeared and that quite a lot of already scarce resources would need to be redirected to ensure that a good webcasting service was provided.
    On the day that Council meets a minimum of 2 staff are required prior to the commencement of the meeting to check the microphones and PA and translation system in the chamber and to set up and check the feeds of the webcasting system on line with Public i (the provider).

When the meeting is taking place one Democratic Support Assistant (DSA) sits behind the monitor and operates the cameras via a keyboard and mouse and also adds agenda points to the webcast time log as each agenda item is considered. The number of members in the meeting (74 with around 20 – 25 members sitting with their backs to the operator) requires a second member of staff to be in attendance to identify speakers and seat numbers for the operator, this member of staff also views the live webcast on an adjacent laptop to identify any problems with the live webcast which are then remedied.

If webcasting should be extended to other Council meetings then the staffing implications would need to be considered at that time.

In addition to the above a considerable amount of time is spent inputting agenda and reports for the webcast with some time also spent in undertaking some minor editing e.g. deleting video recording prior to and after the conclusion of the meeting e.g. amending incorrect names attributed to members and officers speaking during the live webcast ( not sitting in designated seats etc.)

Currently because meetings are only webcast monthly one of the 3 DSA’s has to re - familiarise themselves with setting up and operating the equipment every 2 months. Training is still to be provided by Public i to identify smarter ways of operating the equipment. On average a webcast involves around 12hours of staff resources for the various elements.

    Whilst 2 DSA’s are involved in webcasting from around 9.00a.m. onwards on the day that Council meets this leaves 2 members of staff to man the reception desk for members. The Principal Democratic Services Officer (Chairs Office) who manages the section and a DSA. The PDSO is involved in supporting the Chair and Vice Chair of Council on the day of the meeting from around 8.45 a.m. to around 9.55 a.m. and also after the conclusion of the meeting This leaves one DSA to manage the reception desk to deal with members and their enquiries as they arrive and to also deal with any telephone enquiries.
    Recognising the problems that would occurr during this period of time arrangements have already been made for 3 of the 4 Democratic Services Officers to provide assistance in the reception area to members during this busy period between 9.00a.m. to 9.55a.m. before the Council meeting starts. These members of staff rely on members’ co-operation and patience during this period when on occasion they may experience a slight delay before they are able to be seen to.
    The introduction of webcasting has placed additional responsibilities and workload on the PDSO and the remaining 3 DSA’s and this will be taken into consideration when the pilot period is reviewed to establish whether the webcasting of meetings has been successful in promoting local democracy and public engagement.
    The Democratic Services Unit which forms part of the Administration and Law Division of the Chief Executive’s Department was asked to identify efficiencies of 6% (21,070) in the current budget for 2014/15 and as part of the efficiencies identified it was put forward that the non filling of a recently vacated Part time DSA post (0.6 FTE) should be considered

There will be a knock on effect as a consequence of not filling the vacated post and the introduction of webcasting of meetings and the unit’s and will result in workloads having to be prioritised to meet deadlines.

In respect of the consequential effect on Committee and Members’ support there should not be a major disruption to the services currently being provided but elected members may experience some delays in the futurein processing their enquiries, the majority of which are currently forwarded to departments the same day they are received and also in processing members’ allowances claims.

The number of Councillor enquiries dealt with by the unit are as follows:

    2011/12 1150 enquiries 95% (1095) responded to within 10 working days

    2012/13 1799 enquiries 91% (1629) responded to within 10 working days
    (64% increase in no of enquiries)

    201314 796 enquiries 92% (733) responded to within 10 working days
    (half year figs)

The number of formal and informal meetings of the Council, Independent Education Appeals Panels and other collaborative meetings of the authority with other Councils and agencies (DP Police & Crime Panel, Regional Partnership Board meetings) arranged and attended by the 4 DSO’s are as follows:

    2011/12 - 303 meetings
    2012/13 - 371 meetings
    2013/14 - 188 meetings
    (half year figs)

If changes are agreed to modernise the Council agenda and it is agreed that there should be a reduction in the frequency that meetings of Council and Committee meetings are held, then this will assist in relieving some of the pressures of the workload currently being experienced by both the DSA’s and DSO’s and will compensate for the loss of the part time DSA post.

Support for the Council’s Scrutiny functions

The Council’s 5 Scrutiny Committees (formerly 7 committees) continue to be supported by:

    2 x Senior Scrutiny Consultants
    1 x Assistant Scrutiny Consultant
    1 x Scrutiny Support Officer
    1 x FTE Democratic Services Officer
    (providing the admin support for preparing and despatching agenda and inputting of agenda reports and minutes on the Council’s website)

Support and advice is provided to the 5 Scrutiny Committees and their Task and Finish Groups in collaboration with Officers of other departments of the Council as relevant to remits and issues. Support is also provided in relation to scrutiny member development in collaboration with Corporate Learning & Development and Officers of other departments as appropriate.

DETAILED REPORT ATTACHED?

NO

IMPLICATIONS

I confirm that other than those implications which have been agreed with the appropriate Directors / Heads of Service and are referred to in detail below, there are no other implications associated with this report.

Signed: Colin Davies Head of Democratic Services

Policy, Crime & Disorder and Equalities

Legal

Finance

ICT

Risk Management Issues

Staffing Implications

Physical Assets

NONE

NONE

NONE

NONE

NONE

NONE

NONE

CONSULTATIONS

I confirm that the appropriate consultations have taken in place and the outcomes are as detailed below:

Signed: Colin Davies Head of Democratic Services

1. Local Member(s) – N/A
2. Community / Town Council – N/A
3. Relevant Partners – N/A
4. Staff Side Representatives and other Organisations – N/A

Section 100D Local Government Act, 1972 – Access to Information
List of Background Papers used in the preparation of this report:

THERE ARE NONE