Monday, 26 October 2015

Knowle relocation project: the promise of 'hubs' and putting the cart before the horse

Having decided to relocate, the District Council has embarked on a consultation over which services should be provided once it relocates:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: survey on 'delivery of services'

However, there are questions:


As pointed out in a new piece on the EDW site, the promise of 'services' might not materialise:


24 OCT 2015

Remember EDDC promised that if it moved to Honiton, it would have “hubs” in major towns: didn’t work for Mid Devon:

Council “hubs” and austerity cuts | East Devon Watch

'Downward spiral' as office set to close

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: October 24, 2015

CREDITON residents face losing another vital service just a week after plans to shut the police station were announced. Mid Devon District Council is discussing plans to close its Crediton area office in Market Street from next April.

The plans have alarmed Lawrence ward councillor Bob Wright who said closing the office would be a "ludicrous" backward step and part of a "downward spiral" in the town. The centre currently opens five days a week from 9amto 5pm, it closes at 4.30pm on Friday.

The council says due to increasing budget pressure it has to pursue savings, including reducing some services. No decision has yet been taken on the centre – which employs two staff members – but a range or proposed budget reductions will be discussed by the council's ruling cabinet in November.

Cllr Wright said: "In Crediton, we have seen our children's centre close, our Devon County Council-run care home close and beds reduced at our hospital, and the latest thing is the threat to our police station and to the council offices. She added: "What bothers me is these decisions seem to be taken by people who don't live in the town."

'Downward spiral' as office set to close | Exeter Express and Echo


The East Devon District Council has been saying for some time that its relocation project is being driven by the need to 'modernise' its provision of services:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: hot-desking
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: open-plan offices

Although it has been difficult to ascertain a definition of this high-tech approach:
Hot-desking - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

As pointed out by the EDW blog and comment arising from a year ago, has this promise of 'new ways of working' plus 'delivering services locally' really been thought out?


16 JUN 2014

It seems no-one thought to cost how much will be spent on maintaining satellite hubs if EDDC relocates.

Back of an envelope:

One half day, 50 weeks a year renting space in the 8 towns of East Devon – say to keep visits to a minimum 2 hours per week. A low cost for renting would be about £15 per hour. Cost £78,000

2 people visiting each time (1 officer cannot do everything surely) and each officer claims £10 per trip petrol, subsistence, etc. £2,000

Total minimum £80,000 per year.

Anyone like to put their own costings forward – councillors?

2 thoughts on “The cost of “satellite” hubs if EDDC relocates?”

Paul says:
16 Jun 2014 at 6:47pm

Whilst I agree that there should be an analysis of costs for “satellite hubs”, I am not sure that this is really something that is dependent on a move from Knowle as the benefits of them would presumably be the same whether EDDC is based in Sidmouth or SkyPark.

However, it does seem a little odd in this technological age, when more and more organisations are centralising their teams and providing access by call centres, web-chat, video conferencing etc. for EDDC to be going in the opposite direction. As I understand it, many local councils are successfully implementing multi-functional call-centres for which staff are trained to be able to handle the vast majority of calls.

Without this multi-skilling, I am somewhat sceptical that the small number of staff manning satellite offices will effectively be able to handle the wide variety of issues they are faced with. And if EDDC had moved to a multi-skilled call centre approach, would there be a need for “satellite offices”?

Does EDDC actually have any evidence to show that residents are demanding “local EDDC offices”? Have they tried any form of pilot to confirm that there is demand and to understand the skills needed by staff manning these offices?

The cost of “satellite” hubs if EDDC relocates? | East Devon Watch


But perhaps more puzzling is how the District Council can calculate the cost of relocating to other parts of the District - without calculating the cost of providing 'services' once it has relocated.

In recent FOI requests, attempts have been made to find out more:

Opportunities for service provision in locations across the District

In the Council’s “Corporate Asset Management Plan 2009-2012”, the
following “action” is stated:

8 One stop shops: Changing public access needs, combined with an
expressed vision with the systems thinking review to bring service
delivery even closer to our customers has led to the identification
of a need for satellite ‘one stop shops’ in our main towns. A pilot
scheme is currently being considered in Exmouth. A Part B report
was submitted to the Executive Board 6 August 2008.”


In the “Quarter 2 Performance Report 2014-15: Performance Overview,
Council Promises and Key Performance Indicators” published in
October 2014, it is stated:

Office relocation project include opportunities for service
provision in locations across the district as well as a transition
to more effective mobile working and transfer of files to IT. Some
service disruption is a potential and managed risk in the project.”


In a press statement dated 25th November 2014, the Council stated:

“Sites in two of East Devon’s major towns provide an ideal
opportunity for the council to respond to the demand for various
services. It is clear there is a need to increase service provision
for housing benefits, Council Tax, housing advice and register and
debt advice in both Exmouth and Honiton and there would be
significant demand led presences in Sidmouth and Axminster. The
council would provide surgeries in other towns as they do in
Cranbrook, Seaton, Ottery St Mary, and would experiment with 

frequency and range of services depending on demand. In the longer
term, the council needs to consider the shape of local government.
A combined Honiton and Exmouth office base offers a more flexible
approach to our accommodation requirements involving new and
modernised offices in two locations. In a world of increasing
co-operation between local authorities, a smaller headquarters and
an accessible presence around the district offers a better
proposition for our customers.”


The Minutes of the full Council of 17th December stated:

“Councillor Stuart Hughes referred to a motion he raised in
December 2012. This was to put on hold relocation plans until the
Government had ruled on the recommendations of the Michael
Heseltine report ‘No Stone Unturned’. The motion was referred to
Cabinet where it was deferred to await the outcome of the Knowle
application and was therefore still outstanding. Councillor Hughes
also suggested that the vacated site at Green Close could be
explored for possible use by this Council. The amendment was put to
the vote and supported with a clear majority.”


Lastly, in a statement to the press dated 18th December 2014, the
Leader of the Council stated:

“A majority of councillors agree a combined Honiton and Exmouth
office base offers a sensible approach involving new or modernised
offices in two locations. A smaller headquarters and an accessible
presence around the district has been the council’s aim throughout

this process.


Opportunities for service provision in locations across the District - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

District Council costing the provision of hubs

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."

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”."

'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.'

"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."

In one document produced by Karen Jenkins Corporate OD Manager, the
District Council talks about providing services beyond its Skypark
"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 

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

"2.4 Finally it is recommended that there is a regular surgery in
Sidmouth (depending on demand) particularly for the following
• Council Tax
• Debt advice (Homemaker)"

"C Which services can only be dealt with by customers visiting
• 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
• 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

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