Finance & Public Services Committee update

Finance & Public Services Committee update from Cllr Alex Wilson

After a year off the Finance & Public Services Scrutiny Panel I decided to go back onto it. As a committee it is supposed to look at the Council's organisation and coordination. In addition, as the name would imply it is also a place to review the Council's and cabinet members working arrangements with organisations outside of the Council, for example TfL (Transport for London) and the GLA (Greater London Authority). As both the Opposition Spokesman for Modernisation and the Conservative GLA Candidate I feel that I have a lot to put into this committee. On the agenda were a number of topics, briefly summarised below:

Transport Update from Cabinet Member Cllr Denise Hyland –

One of the topics under discussion was the construction of the CrossRail tunnels, which are progressing to schedule. The “Box” at Woolwich is going to be constructed and the Cabinet member discussed how she was keen to ask TfL and the Mayor of London to now pay for the fit out of the “box”. The “box” is the shell of the purposed Cross Rail station which needs to be dug out at the same time as the main tunnels are being put in as otherwise there will not be the scope to construct them afterwards. Greenwich Council along with local property developers and with the support of the Conservative Councillors have found the funding needed to construct the “box”, the fit out costs will now need to be found if the station is to open at the same time as the rest of Cross Rail. Mayor of London Boris Johnson was able to make the tough decisions necessary to guarantee that Cross Rail would be constructed, however the Woolwich Station fit out was never in the phase 1 budget.  There will be a station in Abbey Wood and hopefully Greenwich Council, TfL and the Mayor of London, along with others such as local businesses will be able to find the resources necessary to fit out the Woolwich Station, as it would bring a whole host of benefits to the Woolwich area.

Greenwich Councils Tax Collection record –

This was a brief review of the Councils ability to collect Council tax from its residents. In the discussion I requested the actual figures as well as percentages, so that it is clear how much the Council is writing off as bad debt.

Human Resources and Organisation –

We discussed the numbers of agency staffing and I also quizzed officers over the number the absenteeism reduction plan. We have now hit our target of 8 days per employee per year; however I am aware that unless we continue to have a positive target we could find ourselves slipping back towards our high of nearly 13 days. Officers revealed that managers are to use a dashboard service which will allow them to quickly see how many employees are absent and therefore actively manage employees.

Cashless and Cheque less payments –

With the new Eltham and Woolwich centres the Council is trying to offer more ways to pay for its services and bills. This means having ways to quickly and easily accept debit and credit cards. Hopefully this should help to reduce waiting times at these centres as well as make it easier for the public to pay.