June 13 2013.
Lewes District Council is to reorganise its staff structure to make services easier to access and be fit for the future. The first step is to recruit three new directors to work with the chief executive, Jenny Rowlands, to move towards a 'customer focus' model of staff organisation. Members, staff and their union, Unison, and service users, will all be involved in helping to decide the detail of the structure, to best deliver services.
The proposal is to create three units:
• A unit bringing together staff from various disciplines to deliver public services, such as planning, environmental health, housing and waste and recycling
• A unit focusing on future planning and projects
• A unit to support the smooth operation of the council
Leader of Lewes District Council, James Page said: "Public expectations and the outlook for local government have changed, so we need to reshape our organisation so staff can focus on giving excellent customer service. We can save money and be ready to adapt to seize opportunities and meet future challenges."
The reorganisation is the next phase of the council's modernisation programme, called Nexus, which began in 2011. Its aim is to achieve the council's vision of 'One District, One Council', bringing the council closer to the residents it serves.
Over the last 18 months the council has invested in staff leadership and development and in upgrading its central Lewes office and IT infrastructure to enable staff to work in an agile way: being more mobile, flexible and responsive to customer needs and changing circumstances. Work is due to start on a new one-stop reception at Southover House in Lewes which, when it opens in the autumn, will enable visitors to access all district council services in one place.
Now the council plans to move-away from the traditional structure, which can create departmental silos and make it difficult for customers to know who to contact or to get more complex issues dealt with easily.
The report suggests the customer services division be made up of several teams, each of which would include professionals in environmental health, planning, housing and other functions the council is responsible for.
The aim is to recruit the new directors before the end of the year, to enable a handover period before two of the existing directors retire.
Discussions and consultations will take place over the coming months and the new structure should be in place by September 2014.
Local government faces many pressures for change, driven by the economy, localism, reform of public services and changing public expectations. The report says, "People are becoming active and demanding consumers of public services, with expectations of service to match those of the best private sector companies. This means people are increasingly looking for 24/7 access to online services... choice, high quality and a say in how services are provided."
It also notes that "The funding prognosis for local government is fairly bleak through to March 2018."
The council has already made at least 68% of the savings it needs to make by 2015. But this restructure should enable it to introduce more efficient and less costly working practices. Cabinet agreed the proposal today (13 June 2013). An extraordinary Council meeting followed the cabinet to establish an appointments committee to recruit the directors.