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					Report of the Head of Strategy                          Agenda Item No:
& Customer Communications                               Meeting: 2 February 2006

                     NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL
                                      CABINET

                            BUDGET FOCUS GROUPS


1.    OBJECT AND KEY POINTS IN THIS REPORT

      1.1    To consider the outcomes of public focus groups in January 2006 on:
             Ø    Customer service issues;
             Ø    Factors that influence satisfaction levels;
             Ø    Council tax levels; and
             Ø    Relative budget priorities.

      1.2    The key points in this report are as follows:

             Ø Each year the council runs focus groups with members of the public
               as part of the budget-setting process.

             Ø These sessions give very clear messages about what issues are
               most important to local people.

             Ø The council makes a concerted effort to ensure genuine
               representation of views across all age groups and areas.

             Ø This year around 139 (68 females / 71males) North Lincolnshire
               residents took part and expressed their views directly to the council.

             Ø These included young people, ethnic minorities and older people.

             Ø The council officers facilitating focus groups were drawn widely from
               across the council.

             Ø This report outlines the key findings.



2.    BACKGROUND INFORMATION

      2.1    Each January the council runs a number of focus groups with members
             of the public as part of the budget-setting process. Focus groups
             usually last for around an hour and a half. This provides an opportunity
             to explain the issues better than in a questionnaire survey. It also
             allows people’s views to be explored in some depth. The outcomes of
             focus groups have no statistical value. In other words, the council
             cannot claim that they represent the views of all the people. They can,
           however, give some very clear messages about what issues are seen
           as being important.

     2.2   Group participants this year were recruited between 12 December 2005
           and 13 January 2006. In total 139 people took part. The majority were
           recruited from those previously completing surveys in direct magazine;
           from face to face contact via Local Link and Libraries; and from
           previous interest shown in such work. Special arrangements were
           made to cover young and older people. Appendix one details the 12
           public focus groups held during the week commencing 16 January.

3.   ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATION

     3.1   Thirty minutes of discussion focused on customer service and things
           that the council needs to get right? There were questions on residents'
           experiences of contacting the council. Their views were sought on
           accessing the council by a single number and using the council’s
           website. Preferences were sought on how they would like to know what
           the council is doing and on council-produced information.

     3.2   Thirty minutes of discussion looked at satisfaction with the council. It
           explored whether residents have higher or lower expectations than
           before. Residents' priorities were explored on quality of life issues such
           as; cleaner, greener and safer areas. The council’s new StreetRight
           initiative was discussed to check awareness.

     3.3   Finally, residents were asked to say what level of council tax they are
           prepared to pay. Information on council spending was presented.
           Residents were given the opportunity to ask questions and discuss
           levels of council tax. There were questions such as which services
           should be protected, and where the council should dis-invest or invest.

4.   RESOURCE AND OTHER IMPLICATIONS

     4.1   Financial

           People, who attend focus groups, excluding staff, usually receive £10
           for expenses.

     4.2   Staffing

           The sessions were managed from within existing staff resources.

     4.3   Statutory

           There are no statutory implications. As good practice, central
           government promotes consultations on councils' budget setting.

     4.4   Environmental and Other




                                                                                     2
            There are no environmental and other implications. Care was taken to
            ensure that the focus group participants represented a diverse profile of
            the community.

5.    OUTCOMES OF CONSULTATION

      5.1   The key themes to emerge from each of the 12 sessions can be found
            in Appendix 2. All of the sessions were lively. By the end of each
            session participants understood the issues before them.

      5.2   The Executive Overview Scrutiny Committee have discussed these
            issues using the same questions and prompts. Their outcomes will be
            reported to full council in due course.

6.    RECOMMENDATIONS

      6.1   That views on enhancing customer service are fed into the work that is
            underway to implement the council’s customer service strategy;

      6.2   That customer satisfaction issues are fed into the council’s recently
            adopted “Reputations” campaign; and

      6.3   That council tax and spending priorities are fed into the council’s budget
            setting process.

            HEAD OF STRATEGY & CUSTOMER COMMUNICATIONS

Pittwood House
Ashby Road
SCUNTHORPE
North Lincolnshire
DN16 1AB
Author:      Adrian Capon
Date:        23 January 2006

Background Papers used in the preparation of this report:          Nil




                                                                                     3
                                                                                                                     APPENDIX 1
                                         FOCUS GROUPS - W/C 16 JANUARY 2006

          Date                     Venue                Facilitators             Scribe           No. of Male/Female
  Monday,               Crosby Link (diverse group)    Vince Mancini     Rachel Williams-High   Female 16 / Male 0
  16 Jan 10 - 12pm                  (Female group)      Rama Kohli

  Tuesday,              Crosby Link (diverse group)    Vince Mancini     Rachel Williams-High   Female 1 / Male 12
  17 Jan 10 - 12pm                  (Male group)        Rama Kohli

  Tuesday,              Park Library                   Kevin Coyle       Lyn Spencer            Female 6 / Male 5
  17 Jan 10 - 12pm                                    Chris Matthews

  Tuesday,              Park Library                   Mark Kitching     Sandra Barker          Female 5 / Male 5
  17 Jan 2 - 4pm                                       Adrian Capon

  Tuesday,              Pittwood House                Neil Laminman      Lindsay Robinson       Female 4 / Male 7
  17 Jan 5.30 – 7pm                                   Chris Matthews

  Wednesday,            Barton Library                  Kevin Coyle      Rachel Williams-High   Female 6 / Male 8
  18 Jan 10 - 12pm                                     Margaret Carr

  Wednesday,            Brigg Library (Group 1)        Dave Watson       Gill Hartley &         Female 4 / Male 4
  18 Jan 2 - 4pm                                                         Lindsay Bromby

                                       (Group 2)       Margaret Carr     Sandra Barker          Female 2 / Male 5

  Thursday,             Crowle Library                 Mark Kitching     Sandra Barker          Female 8 / Male 5
  19 Jan 10 - 12pm                                    Sarah Williamson

  Thursday,             Epworth Library/Link           Adrian Capon      Stacey Dickens         Female 6 / Male 8
  19 Jan 2 - 4pm                                      Sarah Williamson

  Thursday,             Pittwood House                  Simon Driver     Lindsay Robinson       Female 7 / Male 4
  19 Jan 5.30 - 7pm                                     Mel Holmes

  Friday,               John Leggott College           Adrian Capon      Gill Hartley           Female 3 / Male 8
  20 Jan 10.30 – 12pm                                 Sarah Williamson

Total attending all 12 Focus Groups = 139 (71 Male & 68 Female)


                                                                                                                              5
                                                                                           APPENDIX 2
        CROSBY ETHNIC MINORITY FOCUS GROUP 16 JANUARY 2006
1      Customer services: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø Contacting the council: Church Square cash office – staff hardly ever smile. Church Square Local
    Link staff friendly but have to wait a long time. Crosby Link offices very polite. A single contact
   number would be very useful and you would know that there was someone there to talk to.
   Sometimes you get passed around different people and you get fed up. It would help if there were
   a translation service from the single number. On a single number would expect to access all
   services; benefits; fly tipping; litter picking; housing; environmental issues e.g. dog fouling; and
   children’s services.
Ø E-Communications: Six participants with access to the internet and seven with broadband. It’s a
   good idea but need to know how to use it. Difficulties include language and English speakers of
   other languages (ESOL) classes at times to suit. A few had visited the council’s website. Website
   very good and everything is listed. Useful for looking at jobs and printing off application forms.
   Those that have used it would recommend to their family. Internet training session required. Good
   idea to have focus groups to find out information and perhaps have them on a regular basis.
Ø Source and views on information: Some receive Direct magazine, local newspaper, poster and
   leaflets. Council letters are taken to the Local Link. Prefer meetings like these, surgeries in local
  places and A-Z list of services in different languages would be useful. Remember receiving Direct
  and bin collection changes. Not aware of most of the leaflets. Gold standard leaflet good. Only look
  or ask something that you need – language barriers. Letters are not easy to understand. Too many
  leaflets and not in the right format. Need to share more information and advertise services with
  other organisations e.g. Apna Sahara. Leaflets could be simplified.
Ø Other issues: Housing services and carrying out repairs. The housing waiting list – it takes a long
  time for council housing. Parking for residents (Cliff Gardens) people who work in the town centre
  take up spaces. Street lighting (Burke Street) not adequate. The citizenship test is very hard. Need
  more classes to teach English and home visits. Empty houses that are boarded up and not being
  repaired and just left to rot. This creates an eyesore and brings the area down.

2     Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Expectations: All agreed their expectations are higher because they are charged more each year.
  From personal experience children’s school dinners do not cater for halaal.
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: Agree very high priority with all concerned, very important and
  responsibility of homeowners and landlords. Need more CCTV cameras as surveillance. A lot of
  incident’s happen at night so need to ensure 24-hour enforcement.
Ø StreetRight: Very few aware of the scheme. Everyone considered it a good idea.
Ø Other important issues: Education, drug awareness and quality of life issues. Every council
  department to have officers with language skills. Safe footpaths to walk on. Provision of activities for
  Asian women, accessing top employment for Black Minority Ethnic (BME) groups. Appropriate
  school dinners for BME community.
3     Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable incr ease, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø After much discussion the whole group decided that if services were to remain the same then there
  should be 0 to 1 per cent increase. If they were to get better services, the consensus was that the
  council tax should rise by no more than the cost of living.

4      Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø The group agreed it was very difficult to balance what services should be cut against what
  council tax should be paid.
Ø Protect services should include education, health, neighbourhood and environment. Need more
  affordable housing and services to deal with younger people issues e.g. drug abuse. Services for
  older people.
Ø What do the police do locally? Not aware of the community police.

                                                                                                        6
                                                                                               APPENDIX 2
        CROSBY ETHNIC MINORITY FOCUS GROUP 17 JANUARY 2006
1        Customer services: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø    Contacting the council: Very slow response regarding a one way street sign, which was missing.
     Not listened to and no response from the police. Feel the council is not interested in Crosby.
     Rubbish on the street a problem. Money needed to provide more services from Crosby Local link.
     One single number would be sensible and good idea if it works. Test it out and good if people can
     understand you. Expect to access all services; benefits; housing; environmental issues e.g. dog
     fouling. To speak to people directly and remove language barriers. Crosby Local Link is the right
     service for here. Gaining trust from local people can take time. Seem to have little confidence in
     other services.
Ø    E-Communications: Need training on how to use internet/email and access to computers. None of
     the participants have access in their homes. A good idea but have concerns with language
     difficulties.
Ø    Source and views on information: Crosby Local Link and local newspaper. Some receive Direct
     which is helpful. Either children read it or take to the link to translate. Though not everyone has this
    opportunity. Word of mouth from family and friends/ Public meetings like these are good. A council
    tenant couldn’t remember information on the stock transfer. Not aware of any of the publications
    and would only pick up if there is a need for something. Take advice from Local Link staff on what
    may be useful. Easy to read in the right language. Some information can be confusing and should
    be simple to follow. Budget information in Direct is useful to see.
Ø    Other issues: Various accounts of personal issues relating to the street scene on lighting, dog
    fouling and rubbish. People who work in the town centre are taking up resident’s car parking
    spaces. Consider different ways to deliver information to all parties.

2     Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Expectations: All agreed their expectations are higher because council tax money not spent on the
  services they want.
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: Agree very high priority with all concerned. To be able to walk on the
  streets and feel safe. Right street lighting and no dog fouling.
Ø StreetRight: Very few aware of the scheme but sounds very good. Make the town clean is very
  important. Ensure enforcement, make people aware and have more people patrolling streets
Ø Other important issues: Major problem of stray dogs and dog fouling.

3     Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable increase, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø After much discussion consensus of the whole group was that there should be no more than 3 per
  cent increase.

4      Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø Keep the council tax rise as low as possible.
Ø Protect services should include adult, health and children services. More like Crosby Local Link.
  Training for all staff in languages and cultural awareness. Training provided for information
  technology.




                                                                                                           7
                                                                                             APPENDIX 2
              PARK LIBRARY FOCUS GROUP 17 JANUARY 2006 AM
1        Customer services: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø       Contacting the council: Not easy, get the run around; it’s a very roundabout way of contacting
     people. Difficult to get the person you want to speak to, often the person is too busy to speak to
     you – fobbed off but first point of contact is usually good. Have had problems at Church Square
     Link went to fast track and had to wait for ½ hour for query regarding housing, had been informed
     that they were busy. However staff always helpful and courteous. Single number useful but not
     unless it was answered straight away and the query answered. Should be able to ask any question
     on any service and get through to the right person to answer it quickly. Phone numbers listed in
     Direct are good although sometimes they are not answered or are constantly engaged.
Ø    E-Communications: It’s very good but there are a lot of people who don’t have access to
     computers and even more who don’t know how to use them. Need training on how to use
     internet/email and access to computers . Two people in the group had internet access. Two people
     had visited council’s website and found it useful. Frustrating to be told ‘you can get that information
     or you can do that online’. Agree that it’s useful but also want to be able to deal with a real person
     or by phone.
Ø    Source and views on information: Direct, word of mouth, local newspaper and sometimes local
     radio. The newspapers can be biased. Meetings are not always advertised enough in advance for
    people to attend. Direct is good but would like to see a series of articles about what councillors do.
    Prefer their information from Direct and by leaflets. Like the magazine style, it’s well written and
    easily to understood. More leaflets and the Forward Plan should be like this. Some aware but not
    many of the publications. Will read things if they look attractive and interesting. Want to know more
    about what councillors do for their money and make the Forward Plan more user friendly.
Ø    Other issues: Generally felt that contact with councillors not good. Questions were asked on
     whether the costs to the council go down if housing properties go to a Social Landlord. Will the
     council still have to maintain the houses? Does the council pay for bus shelters and could
     streetlights be on timers?

2     Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Expectations: Lower expectations from service cuts every year but raise council tax. Not satisfied
  with services. Cuts should be balanced across services. Get the same service level but costs more.
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: Path cleaning is not good in some areas, some are very clean and
  others never touched. All the money seems to be spent on the Crosby area. Streetlights are
  reported and not repaired. Dog fouling reported and nothing done about it. The new scheme might
  work but have not yet seen any sight of it.
Ø StreetRight: Heard about it and think it’s a good idea. Need to get around to more areas, enforce
  the alcohol drinking rule. Generally the enforcement on a number of issues is not good. You contact
  the council and report things but nothing is done about it.
Ø Other important issues: Being safe, having a clean area to line in. Recycling larger items made
  easier for people without transport. Increase policing and dog patrols. StreetRight back these up
  with strict enforcement policies.

3     Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable increase, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø After much discussion the group generally felt that between a 3 to 4.6 per cent increase would be
  reasonable. Should still ask the government for money to keep increases down and no service cuts.

4     Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø Protected services should include older people, cleaning the environment, adult education,
  recycling and leisure e.g. swimming & libraries etc. Would be prepared to cut councillor expenses
  by half. Turn off some streetlights to save power and gardening services. One Sunday saw eight
  gardeners working on a roundabout.
Ø Are we getting a new swimming pool and sports academy for Scunthorpe – we have to go to Brigg.

                                                                                                           8
                                                                                             APPENDIX 2
              PARK LIBRARY FOCUS GROUP 17 JANUARY 2006 PM
1      Customer services: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø      Contacting the council: Face to face contact e.g. Church Square and Ashby Local Links is very
    good. Staff are courteous and helpful. Contacting benefits and council tax is very good. Generally
    60 per cent of contact is good but 40 per cent not so good. A problem experienced in contacting
    refuse section. Doubts about whether a single number could cope. Staff would need a wide
    knowledge. Service from switchboard very good. Most have used direct dial numbers, which are
    very good. Concerns that single number would be a worse service and some direct numbers in
    Direct not correct. Must speak to a person and must not be automated – don’t spoil a good service.
Ø   E-Communications: Two people had contacted the council via email and had speedy responses.
    Three people had internet access and visited the council’s website. Thought it was useful for job
    vacancies, information on highways about Berkeley Circle and looking at Direct on-line.
Ø   Source and views on information: Direct and local newspaper. Direct is excellent but can be
    self-serving writing about the good – no critical letters. Needs to give more information e.g. road
    closures. More canvassing of public opinion needed. Local newspaper very critical of the council.
    More likely to read criticism in the letters page. Direct was read by the entire group. Views on the
    Gold Standard council tax leaflet were mixed. How truthful is it? – There is a gap between what it
    says and peoples’ experiences. No need to produce a separate leaflet if it goes in Direct. Needs to
    be more user friendly – in plain English, glossary of terms – more resident focused.
Ø   Other issues: Problems experienced contacting housing repairs contact centre. Perception that the
    housing people only interested in the transfer – day to day issues pushed to the side. Different
    parts of the council not taking responsibility for sorting out something that isn’t their problem – no
    ownership.

2      Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Expectations: Higher expectations – paying more but in reality the council doesn’t deliver.
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: All agreed it’s a priority. Noise in rural areas, more police on the beat
  and need for planning ‘secure by design’.
Ø StreetRight: Some had heard about it and knew the number. Concerns about ability to enforce e.g.
  littering. Need to patrol Doncaster Road at night and Central Park car park at lunchtime.
Ø Other important issues: Council doesn’t listen – the council thinks what's best is what will happen.
  Scunthorpe market needs improving. Scunthorpe shops are poor – people shop out of town. Some
  criticise of building works at central library – nothing wrong with it how it was. Overall felt that there
  is quite a high level of satisfaction with the council but only the dissatisfied make their views known.
  Suggest satisfaction surveys are done in community venues e.g. supermarkets. Loss of identity of
  Scunthorpe since the demise of Scunthorpe Borough Council.

3     Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable increase, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø After much discussion the group generally felt that 5 per cent maximum increase would be
  reasonable. Council needs to communicate that the increased costs of some things to the council
  are more than inflation.

4     Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø Protected services should include adult social care and planning and regeneration. Would be
  prepared to cut education advisory service, human resources and sickness absence.
Ø Very interested in the detail of what is spent on individual services. Should emphasise what are
  discretionary and non-discretionary highlighting staff costs.




                                                                                                           9
                                                                                          APPENDIX 2
SCUNTHORPE PITTWOOD HOUSE FOCUS GROUP 17 JANUARY 2006 Eve
1       Customer services: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø      Contacting the council: Only one person had never contacted the council. Most were happy with
    the service. Most thought the A -Z of services in Direct was very useful but sometimes did not know
    where to look for the section required. Most people would be happy to have a single number.
    Thought that one number would only create too many tiers (pressing buttons for some areas). This
    would cause frustration. One number would be useful as a point of contact to enquire about a
    number for a specific section. Most wanted a seamless process and not being passed around.
    Agreed that most queries would be about bins, streetlights, childcare facilities, street cleaning, and
    highways – not so much specialist queries.
Ø   E-Communications: Not everyone had access to the internet and six out eleven had access to
     broadband. Those who did thought it was a good service – 24-hour service helpful for people who
    worked. Most were happy with replies usually within 24 hours – though one highway query has not
    been answered in six months. Older members of the group did not have access, thought it was a
    luxury item and would not be their first contact channel. Those aware of the council’s website
    thought it should be advertised more. One or two had used the facilities at the library and seven
    have visited the council’s website. Concern was raised whether the site was going to get quicker
    and slicker.
Ø   Source and views on information: Direct and local newspaper. Most said they read Direct and
    found it very useful. About half the group said they got their information from the local newspapers
    – thought a lot of the articles were negative. One or two mentioned there was never much mention
    of North Lincolnshire on the local radios. Direct was the preferred choice of information ahead of
    the website. Agreed a monthly Direct was better than every two months. The group had not seen
    many of the leaflets but said that where there was a need they would seek out leaflets from Local
    Links e.g. tourist information during school holidays. The leaflets are well produced but it would be
    more cost effective to stop producing the leaflets and put everything in Direct.

2      Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Expectations: Expectations were bound to rise with the rise in council tax. Generally people were
  willing to complain more about services and expectations were rising across the board. North
  Lincolnshire was closer to its community than larger councils. People are disenchanted with
  councillors scoring points of each other in the local press. Petty squabbling between councillors
  does not encourage people to vote. People who vote expect more.
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: All agreed it’s a priority but would not solve the problem over night.
  Plus buses, schools, policing, transport and roads and footpaths, repairs and maintenance, parks,
  demolish tin houses. Refuse service is excellent. Costs of clearing up vandalism should be
  published.
Ø StreetRight: Excellent initiative but council needs to sort out the social problems behind it – needed
  to project a zero tolerance to flytipping, vandalism etc. Council to use all it powers to prosecute.
  Agreed with a name and shame policy.

3     Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable increase, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø After much discussion the group generally felt that anywhere between 1 – 5 per cent with a
  consensus of 4 – 5 per cent. Priorities outlined by the public to councillors could be ring fenced.

4     Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø Protected services should include libraries and repairs and maintenance of the main roads.
  Improvements centred on bus routes and traffic congestion reduction. Would be prepared to
  eliminate waste and inefficiency – leave everything to officers.



                                                                                                        10
                                                                                            APPENDIX 2
            BARTON LIBRARY FOCUS GROUP 18 JANUARY 2006 AM
1       Customer services: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø      Contacting the council: Experience ranged from satisfactory to very good. Sometimes it can take
    several phone calls to find the right person. Council needs the right-trained staff answering the
    calls. Action has been witnessed taken from a call. Experience of being passed around and very
    good service if this has happened. Housing repairs line staff are always courteous. Even the
    workmen that come are very good and respectful. One single number would be very useful. Difficult
    for reception to know everything but could information technology help. One focal point and the
    right information need to be fed to the front-line. Should be able to ask any question on any service
    and get through to the right person to answer it quickly. Do not use the same system as the police
    and give out reference numbers. Do not use automated touchtones – need to speak to a human
    voice. Training staff to ensure they have the knowledge and it’s vital the contact centre gets things
    right to start with. Concentrate on this before adding more numbers. Good communication –
    reception staff need to have access to wealth of information. Seamless service offered to all areas.
    Expect to access all services from one number. A – Z list of contact numbers very good
Ø   E-Communications: Most indicated that they had internet access. Very good services for renewing
    car insurance and library books. They were aware of the council’s website and it’s a good site.
    Someone had received postal voting forms from using the website.
Ø   Source and views on information: Direct, local newspapers, website, Bartonian and council
     meeting minutes. Recall recent Direct – usually read it, though still not reaching everyone. Make
    information more digestible and is in the right format. Consensus people are happy with information
    levels, though consider there is a gap in relation to formal council issues.
Ø   Other issues: There is a process missing – how to get involved with the council. A big hole, though
    not sure how to fill it. Does the council listen to residents? Does the council provide funds for parish
    councils? Difficult to understand responsibilities between council and parish council e.g. tree
    ownership. Power of the media as opposed to individual voices for making changes to council
    procedures and practices. The best service is received from Barton library. Glanford reception was
    very good. The service here is excellent. Could we do more recycling? Problem of where to put all
    the bins. It is encouraging that the council is doing more recycling.

2     Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Expectations: It was addressed in the customer service section.
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: It was addressed in the customer service section.
Ø StreetRight: Sounds very good. This service is needed.

3     Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable increase, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø After much discussion options varied from nil per cent, inflation and 4 per cent. Agreed nil to 2.2 per
  cent less than inflation. Difficult as the decision can be subjective and need to consider all the facts.
Ø Make sure the council’s competitive with private services.

4      Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø Any cuts in service will impact on OAPs and children. Protected services are adult education for
  older people. Need to look at ways to save money. Everyone thought that the procurement process
  was good practice to save money. Make all departments cost effective.
Ø The workforce numbers have gone up. In the last Direct, why were so many jobs advertised on
  good salaries? Does each department have its own budget? If one department has underspent can
  the money be transferred to one that is overspent? Why are adult classes so expensive? Our
  established adult classes can create their own culture, it’s sad we’ve lost this.
Ø Does the council do a feasibility study to see if the service could be contracted out to save money?
  Is there an independent body that can look at this? Why is there a shortfall in pension contributions?
Ø Handouts today could have been put on double-sided paper. How are refurbishments paid for?

                                                                                                        11
                                                                                         APPENDIX 2
      BRIGG LIBRARY FOCUS GROUP 18 JANUARY 2006 PM GROUP 1
1        Customer services: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø       Contacting the council: No problem whatsoever – uses the telephone directory. Contacted about
    dog litter, York Road playing fields (Brigg). Constant problem still needs resolving. One resident
    received poor response from switchboard. Training is needed to help and speed up the process.
    No problem when contacting Station Road. Single telephone number would rather speak to a
    person than automated routing. If in a queue would need to know what position in the queue. Fine
    provided there is more than one operator. Would expect to contact children’s education. Will one
    number cost more, must get the right balance between customer services and benefits. Staff to talk
    slower on the phone. Sometimes hard to understand what’s being said. They should be more
    patient for older people. Check how many people phone each number. Very happy with the A – Z
    list of council services. Adequate response received from main switchboard number 296296.
    Found environmental services very good. Department returned phone call with a good response.
Ø       E-Communications: Three people had used a website. To request on-line library books and link
        to
    museums archive. Found photos of family members. No one with access to broadband.
Ø   Source and views on information: With great difficulty sometimes. Use Direct for local news and
    contact numbers. From the library. Nothing of interest in the free newspapers. Use monthly surgery
    at Barton with local councillors – particularly helpful. Use radio/TV Look North. Radio Humberside
    and Lincolnshire. Use national channels. Shouldn’t always believe what is written in the papers.
    Direct is their preferred information source and recall getting it. A couple in Worlaby haven’t ever
    had a copy delivered. Will look at something based on size, type, colour and modern design makes
    it more appealing. Want to know more about vandalism prevention and free travel for over 60’s.
    More on bin changes. All enjoyed Direct.
Ø   Other issues: Parents should take more responsibility for their children’s education. Some elderly
    residents concern over new bin scheme. Need information and help on obtaining assisted
    collections. Why can’t there be a general system of tree maintenance rather than having to
    complain when trees and hedges become overgrown on footpaths (Brigg parish council took this
    problem up). Compost bins are good and reasonably priced.

2     Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Expectations: When compared with services three years would rate the council on average seven
  out of ten. Focus groups good idea. Good improvements in extension of Brigg and Barton library
  opening hours. Good schools, leisure centres, and adult education. Generally most of the group felt
  residents had a lot to be thankful for. Bad points are facilities for older people. Need a cinema or
  theatre in Brigg. Improve Brigg youth services. Very dirty from litter, dog mess and graffiti.
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: Crime / rubbish collection / street cleaning generally good.
Ø StreetRight: Seen article in local newspaper and council minutes. Would there be improvements in
  Barton, more bins and policeman patrolling to catch offenders. See it to believe it – nothing will
  change. Very good idea and will use the number when necessary. Resident had seen van call on a
  house with a known dog fouling problem. Where’s the money coming from to fund this scheme?
Ø Other important issues: Does the council have any input into the Humber Bridge tolls? Money spent
  on cyclists – why? Will older people get free travel from April 2006? Council should improve and be
  more efficient.
3     Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable increase, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø Amounts of increase ranged over 0 per cent with a possible cut in tax, 2 per c ent, 4 per cent, 4.5
  per cent and 5 per cent.

4    Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø Protected services should include schools, environmental services, adult education, library services
  and leisure. Should market test services with private sector. Full staff assessment of all work.
Ø Consider the elderly residents on fixed incomes can’t keep on increasing council tax.

                                                                                                     12
                                                                                             APPENDIX 2
      BRIGG LIBRARY FOCUS GROUP 18 JANUARY 2006 PM GROUP 2
1       Customer services: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø      Contacting the council: Waste query – easy access via helpline number and quick follow up.
    Access by phone needs a certain amount of knowledge on how the council works. Switchboard is
    very good. Call back always happens. Agree that the single number would be useful. Method of
    contact needs to be simple, don’t pass customers around and calls answered quickly. Staff need to
    know what they’re doing and operators shouldn’t ask too many questions for older people. Expect
    to contact planning and waste on a single number. Generally satisfied with good experiences of
    contact. Good communication is essential.
Ø      E-Communications: All like it and all use it. All have internet access at home and one at work.
    Council website is very useful. Amazed by how much information there is on it. Yes they would
    recommend the site to family and friends. Very keen on using the internet, council website is well
    used and appreciated.
Ø   Source and views on information: Use Direct, local newspaper and leaflets from the library. Direct
     is excellent. Leaflets are very useful for specifics. Direct A – Z is very useful but would like some
    more detail e.g. different types of benefits. Agreed more detail wouldn’t be necessary if they could
    be certain of ringing a single number and put through to the correct section. Like Direct this is the
    preferred method of communication. It’s readable, attractive and makes council information
    interesting. Like the layout. Most people had seen some of the leaflets – most commonly was the
    composter leaflets. Will read if attractive and catch the eye. Easy to read and relevance. Direct
    provides a manageable amount of information at the right intervals. Want to know more about
    different benefits, recycling and bin collections over bank holidays. No stickers on bins this
    Christmas caused a lot of problems. Direct budget article – information very complex – difficult to
    take in. Is it true? There can be too many leaflets in places such as libraries – lose their effect. Lots
    of complaints on the lack of bin stickers.

2     Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Expectations: Higher expectations possibly because people seem to get so little for their council tax
  when it keeps going up.
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: All agreed with the principles. Issues of concern are more police,
  people riding bikes on pavements. Need better public transport and bus shelters.
Ø StreetRight: Heard about this and think it’s a good thing. Need higher fines to deter offenders. Can it
  cope with the whole of North Lincolnshire? Some concern about getting involved and reporting
  incidents in case of reprisals.

3     Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable increase, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø Amounts of increase ranged over 2.8 per cent (3 people) to 5 – 10 per cent (one person). In
  between 5 per cent (3 people). Views are based on individuals’ ability to pay and financial
  circumstances.
Ø More services seem to be done by the council with no extra funding when they should be provided
  by central government.

4     Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø Protected services should include public transport, roads – patching is false economy.
Ø Prepared to cut corporate services, experimental road surfaces. Lots of duplication with bus
  shelters and with education.
Ø Pensioners are on a fixed income – rise in state pension will be 2.8 per cent in 2006/07 but council
  tax goes up more each year.
Ø Council tax is totally wrong – money should be collected for local services in a similar way to
  income tax.
Ø Comparison figures for different years would be useful. Recycling should be optional.
Ø The group showed a lot of interest in council issues and asked a lot of questions.

                                                                                                          13
                                                                                          APPENDIX 2
           CROWLE LIBRARY FOCUS GROUP 19 JANUARY 2006 AM
1       Customer services: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø      Contacting the council: Planning at Church Square helpful. Generally happy. Pittwood reception
    appears to be over staffed. All departments very helpful – will always find someone to help. Staff
    incredibly friendly but often nothing gets done. Single number would be useful especially if you
    don’t know the person you need. Need to get through to a person. Speed of follow -up service
    important – e.g. collection of bulky items takes a long time. Consider contact out of normal office
    hours. Would expect the contact centre staff can be able to deal with a range of queries in depth –
    which is sometimes not humanly possible. Generally high levels of satisfaction.
Ø      E-Communications: Like the channel. E-library services are excellent. Concerns of older people
    being left behind – not able to use computers. Most had internet access and others use the
    computers in the library. They know of the council’s website, most had used it and think it’s very
    good.
Ø      Source and views on information: Direct, library and Crowle Link/Resource centre. All OK –
    particularly like Direct – very good, readable, not too deep. Have seen only the leaflets on skip hire
    and composters. They look at leaflets if it offers curiosity, like the letters page and Sue Hoy’s
    articles in Direct. Would want to know more about the wind farm issue – query whether this comes
    from the council. Nobody could remember reading the budget article in Direct. Feel well informed
    about bins although lack of stickers at Christmas caused problems.

2     Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Expectations: Higher expectations because cost of council tax versus perception of services
  received.
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: All agreed good idea. Most important concerns are litter, police
  response times not good enough and dog dirt a real problem.
Ø StreetRight: Some had seen it in Direct. Nobody had seen any StreetRight officers. All right if it
  works. Fines should be higher – but would people pay? The principle of raising consciousness
  about litter was very important.
Ø Other important issues: Perceived that Epworth gets more than Crowle e.g. litter collection and
  street cleaning. No one seems responsible for dealing with litter. Generally high levels of
  satisfaction.

3     Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable increase, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø After discussion about paying too much there was consensus of between 4 to 5 per cent.
Ø Government needs to look at the whole issue of council tax. Need concessions for pensioners.
Ø Group acknowledged the difficulty of balancing budgets and choosing where to make cuts.

4    Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø Protected services should include adult services and neighbourhood services (in the light of the
  previous discussion). Would be prepared to cut education advisory services and education support
  services. Should look at leisure and libraries – although would be sad to cut these.
Ø Need more for young people to do e.g. skate park, swimming pool etc.




                                                                                                       14
                                                                                              APPENDIX 2
           EPWORTH LIBRARY FOCUS GROUP 19 JANUARY 2006 PM
1     Customer services: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø     Contacting the council: Contact by phone and letters. Staff always give answers to enquiries.
   Problems with staff moving around. When contacting the council on a recurring issue, customers
   have to always explain their circumstances from scratch everytime to new members of staff. Been
   issues contacting waste numbers and received poor customer service. A single number is a good
   idea in principle. Have concerns about the operators being properly trained and having complete
   wide knowledge for all enquiries. Would like all phone enquiries to be giving reference numbers so
   staff can quickly see their details and who they have spoken to in the past. Would still like the
   choice of speaking directly to service departments rather than one central number and then being
   transferred (possibly incorrectly) somewhere else.
Ø E-Communications: Several members use it all the time. At least four do not use it. Three members
   had visited the council’s website. Use it to find information and not to contact the council. Not
   happy about the downloading of PDF documents. Found it very useful in finding about civil wedding
   ceremonies. One said the council tax information was very difficult to understand.
Ø     Source and views on information: Direct and local media. A few members believe the media is
   negative towards the council. Direct is very good. Like the layout, regular information, and good
  features, easy to read and understand. It’s very clear and user friendly. Direct recent edition very
  well received but some issues with the job deadline dates arriving with one week to spare. Some
  awareness of the leaflets shown. More information in Direct on planned roadworks and gritting.

2      Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Expectations: Higher expectations as people expect more for their money. Local issues affect
  satisfaction levels. Visual issues, such as roads, affect everyone and therefore satisfaction. In some
  areas people are quite satisfied, but other areas they are very dissatisfied. The media drives
  dissatisfaction. It picks the area everyone criticises, focuses on it and then ignores the good things.
  We ignore the good things and never compliment the council. We always pick out the bad.
  Everyone has different priorities and this will affect their satisfaction levels.
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: Not aware of them.
Ø StreetRight: No not heard about it. All support it. One person hates the thought of a police state but
  also hates people littering / flytipping. Concern over council’s ability to clean up litter on private land.
Ø Other important issues: Household recycling centres – but the Epworth one puts them off going
  there. The people are very hostile, unhelpful and discourteous. The council is short-sighted in its
  approach to some things. It needs more joined up thinking – particularly with the rubble rule at the
  Household Recycling Centres and bulky items. If people can’t take rubble without being charged, it
  will encourage flytipping and then StreetRight will then just clean it up.

3      Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable increase, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø After a long discussion with the group and many questions 5 members would like it in line with
  inflation, one member 3 per cent and two members 5 per cent. Why does the government reduce its
  money to the council? Discussion on the statutory and non-statutory services and if they can help
  with cuts. When and where does the council pay its borrowing back?
Ø Greater clarity on where the figures come from is needed – the group struggled to understand the
  figures. What do we actually get from our money?

4    Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø Would be prepared to cut brown bin collections in winter. Lots of managers, no need for so many.
  Also look at setting new conditions of employment on pensions and pay rises for new staff.
Ø Take Normanby Hall out of council control. Remove education service entirely from council control.



                                                                                                           15
Ø Councillor expenses – make debate a political game not a numbers game. Several members said
  trim all the services and not wipe one out. Council to explain more clearly in Direct the financial
  position.




                                                                                                    16
                                                                                        APPENDIX 2
SCUNTHORPE PITTWOOD HOUSE FOCUS GROUP 19 JANUARY 2006 EVE
1     Customer service s: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø     Contacting the council: Most people had contacted the council and found staff very helpful and
   generally responded well to enquiries. However, one or two specialist numbers had changed –
   paying council tax by debit card (a new number which has not been widely advertised) and Humber
   Bridge tickets are no longer available at Pittwood House (not widely advertised). Contact with the
   waste section was good – staff were polite and answered straight away. Everyone had heard of the
   new single number and thought it was a good idea. However, there was sometimes a long wait
   before the line became free. This would become worse if more services were added to the system.
   There would be a need for a much larger call centre with more staff taking calls. Nobody was keen
   on pressing lots of numbers to speak with someone. Difficulties were seen with ethnic minority
   groups and the elderly. The group agreed that there should be a seamless system with short
   waiting times, otherwise the public would become frustrated.
Ø E-Communications: one or two had contacted the council via e-mail but felt that if they were not
   happy with the reply there was no redress – other than to phone. Highways good at answering
   emails but leisure not so good. Email was a good way to contact the council. About half the group
   had internet access. They all knew about the website but only accessed it for information. Concern
   about paying bills over the internet. Agreed that more options means increased costs.
Ø Source and views on information: Most people have got their information from Direct and thought it
   was a very good publication. Leaflets were OK but meaningless if the information was not
   displayed in a user-friendly way without using jargon. This only puts people off. Suggestion to stop
   producing leaflets and put everything in Direct. About half the group also said the information on
  refuse bins and boxes was very helpful. Services need to be joined up e.g. passing information on
  when moving house. Can Direct be produced in larger print and made easier to find on the web?
  Nothing much on the radio. Only one in four received the local newspaper. Most leaflets end up in
  the bin apart from Direct. Information in leaflets has to be needed to read it. Budget information in
  Direct was welcomed and everyone was interested to see what the council spends the money on.

2      Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Expectations: One person very positive and the council did an immense amount of good work.
  People only tend to see the council tax bill arrive every year and did not know the good things the
  council did. Negative articles in the local newspaper – not many positive. One person contacted
  about street lighting but nothing done for eighteen months. Helpful if the council informed people
  what work was going to happen in their area. Perceptions – if people thought they were being
  listened to and helped, then satisfaction is higher.
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: Good initiative but people needed educating into respecting their local
  surroundings. The council and police cannot do it on their own. Issues are flytipping, litter in the
  town centre and dog litter – bins need emptying more regularly.
Ø StreetRight: One person heard of this although everybody aware of single number. Back this up
  with strict enforcement policies and publicise prosecutions. Recycling was a good thing.

3     Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable increase, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø Half the group thought between 2 – 4 per cent. Two people would be happy to pay between 10 – 15
  per cent to secure all services. Following discussion the group thought that between 3 – 5 per cent
  would be right. The group agreed that if people want good services they have to pay for them.
Ø Some thought that it should be graded by age and capped for minimum wage and fixed incomes.

4    Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø The majority of the group would protect all services. One member suggested selling off all of leisure
  and looking to outsource others. Some of the group thought that businesses in the town centre
  should be charged for clearing litter.
Ø No costs were suggested – running the council more efficiently should make savings.

                                                                                                    17
                                                                                          APPENDIX 2
      JOHN LEGGOTT COLLEGE FOCUS GROUP 20 JANUARY 2006 AM
1        Customer services: - what does the council need to get right?
Ø       Contacting the council: One student works at Normanby Hall and thinks they need more facilities
    and entertainment. Staff really nice. Expensive when going on your own. Season pass not good if
    you only visit once or twice a year. One student using Scunthorpe leisure centre said the staff are
    not very polite and helpful. Wouldn’t like to complain about anything, not sure how they would take
    it. A student working part-time in the library said the branch library staff seemed nicer than the
    central library staff. Another student disagreed who had previously experienced Scunthorpe library
    staff to be very helpful and pleasant. 20-21 a really nice place, but always seems to have the same
    exhibitions. Need to change more often and be interesting to younger people. A couple of students
    had used the Base. A good place to meet up. Seem to be quite a few young people go but not
    everyone likes music – need more variety.
Ø   E-Communications: Very good could not live with out it now. All have internet access. Use
    broadband at the college. Visited the council website quite good, well laid out and easy to find
    things. Website not advertised enough.
Ø   Source and views on information: No students attended any council meetings as yet. One
     student gets information from the council working part-time in the library. One student reads Direct,
    it tells you what’s going on and good during college holidays. Need more sports and leisure
    activities covered in Direct. Four students not seen Direct at home. One student gets information
    from the internet. Like to get 20-21 publications through the door. Tend to read the local paper to
    see what’s going on. Very interested in leisure and art activities. Never seen any of the
    publications.
Ø   Other issues: None of the students knew who their local councillors are. No student knew who the
    Mayor was and asked what the Mayor did. Council should inform the public of road works and
    diversions. Highways have done a lot of work to improve roads. Not heard of bin changes.

2     Customer satisfaction levels – what do we need to do better?
Ø Cleaner, Greener and Safer: Town centre appalling, nothing to keep university students here.
  Comfortable place for older people more rural than large city centre. Some students think that cities
  are better but they can be dirty and unsafe in certain areas. Nothing to do in Scunthorpe and not a
  nice place to live. Must stop litter on the streets. Need more visible police on the streets; should
  work in partnership with the council. Not safe to walk around the town centre on your own at night.
Ø StreetRight: Not heard of it, welcome it, but not enough officers. Good initiative; it is needed.
  Scunthorpe area is filthy and need more people patrolling the area to era dicate the problem. Crosby
  area very embarrassing, litter and items dumped all around. Need more than a team of ten to tackle
  the problem. Good idea to have a dedicated phone number. Important to keep the area clean and
  tidy. Central Park (paddling pool area) very bad and the toilets covered in graffiti.
Ø Other important issues: Main aspiration is to go to university and not come back to Scunthorpe.
  Need new leisure centre and activities for young people. Would help stop young people hanging
  around on the streets. Improvements in town centre shops. Too many pound shops.

3     Council Tax Levels: - what would be a reasonable increase, if any, in 2006/7?
Ø The council tax just increases and don’t know much about it. No idea how much to increase it by.
  After some discussion most of the group thought between 3 – 3.5 per cent.
Ø Must find ways to inform residents why the increase to stop them complaining. One student said
  this would be not so bad when you think about the increase over a year. It would help if residents
  could see where their money is going. If the council was seen to be doing more, then could increase
  council tax more.




                                                                                                       18
4     Budget priorities – what should be the council's priorities?
Ø Transport, buses useless, hardly any, particularly near to Tesco’s. Otherwise buses stop at 5pm.
  Trains and buses too expensive and not very reliable.




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