Colchester Council achieved robustly in line with its 2019/20 performance targets, according to an end-of-year report agreed by Cabinet last Wednesday (2 September).
The Year End April 2019-March 2020 Performance Report had previously been reviewed by the Scrutiny Panel on 21 July 2020.
According to the report, 10 (77%) of the council’s 13 key performance measures were achieved by the end of 2019/20. While several exceeded expectations, three did not meet their targets in full.
Key indicators for Planning, Benefits, Housing, collection of Council Tax and Business Rates, and staff absence, either met or exceeded targets last year:
Planning saw a consistently high level of decision-making for 48 major applications, 332 minor applications and 1067 other applications – with all performance on track and targets met.
Benefits: The time taken to process Housing Benefit claims and Local Council Tax Support improved even on last year’s goal-busting performance, exceeding targets by five days and four days by taking two days and three days to process respectively.
Housing: The number of new houses delivered over the past year was 1124 (target: 920) of which 237 were affordable homes. The slowdown in March, when the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold, did not affect the result.
However, the report notes the measure for Full Homelessness Duty Owed – a relatively new objective with no nationally recognised standard and no baseline data, which monitors the effectiveness of homelessness prevention – had overshot its 20% cumulative target, by an average 27.27% per month over the year.
And, despite a difficult economic climate, rent collection levels remained above the 98% target at just below 99.1%.
Average time to re-let council homes was far better than expected, improving to 12.5 days, as a result of a focussed effort to improve the ‘void’ process combined with the performance of a new contractor.
Council Tax and Business Rates: Proactive work saw collection rates record a modest improvement on the previous year, standing at 97.8% and 98.71% respectively, despite some large companies in administration failing to pay during the last few months of the year and the impact of coronavirus taking a toll on business rates in March.
The sickness rate have improved significantly at 8.76 days (at the same time last year the rate was 9.65 days – achieved through a combination of a more robust approach to the management of persistent sickness absence and wellbeing and training activities.
Waste and Recycling Key Indicators were slightly off-target for the year, following a similar pattern to last year, with residual waste generated by each household 4.91kg above the 356kg target. The amount of household waste reused, recycled and composted fell slightly on the previous year, at 53.34%, but still beating the 53% target.
An over-reliance on agency staff and difficulties early in the year had an impact on the ability of the Waste Service to maintain the Weekly Missed Collections target. However, the performance in the last quarter did see a marked improvement. Whilst cumulatively the average number of missed collections was 217, the monthly average for February and March were 148 and 149 respectively. The level of household waste in the borough is still one of the lowest in the region.
The report also showcases the wide range of awards, accolades and mentions the council has received from external organisations during 2019/2020 in recognition for the work it has undertaken and the achievements it has had. These include:
- The council’s swift and co-ordinated response to COVID-19, which featured on the District Councils’ Network website as an example of good practice. March 2020
- Colchester Castle scooping a VisitEngland Visitor Attraction Accolade in the ‘welcome’ category
- North Essex Parking Partnership (NEPP) winning the Communication prize for the second year running in the British Parking Awards
- Receiving the Customer Service Excellence standard for the second year in a row
- The Day Out With The Kids Family Favourites Award for Colchester’s Natural History Museum
- Being shortlisted for the LGC Awards in three categories
- Finalists in the ‘Benefits and Welfare Reform Team of the Year’ and ‘Most Improved Team of the Year’ – after impressing IRRVA judges with the team’s high standards of service and strong focus on customer service
- Ranked joint top performer in the Eastern Region and equal third most climate-friendly area in England and Wales, according to Friends of the Earth
- A Gold award from the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme
- Green flag Awards for Castle Park, High Woods Country Park, and Colchester Cemetery
- A Local Government Information Unit and the District Councils Network report highlights the council’s ambitions to build more council houses, commending it for the “full commitment of its Cabinet to increase the level of affordable housebuilding” among other things.
- Legal Services re-accredited against the Law Society's LEXCEL legal practice quality mark
- The Housing Benefits Team shortlisted as finalists in the ‘Workforce Transformation’ category in the MJ Awards, while the council’s Digital Access Support Team received a commendation in the ‘Delivering Better Outcomes’ category
Other notable achievements are listed here.
Adrian Pritchard, Colchester Borough Council’s Chief Executive, said: “This report shows the considerable amount of positive work being undertaken across the council and with our partners to achieve our strategic priorities. There is so much happening in every part of the council of which we can be proud and which attests to the hard work and commitment of staff who deliver our services on behalf of residents and customers.”
Cllr Julie Young, Portfolio Holder for Culture & Performance and Deputy Leader of the Council, added: “This is another excellent report and I am delighted by our efforts to achieve and, in most cases, exceed our performance targets during such a busy and eventful year for the council.
“There were numerous examples of excellent progress and achievement against our Strategic Plan objectives, including: promotion of our unique culture and heritage that saw increased visitor numbers to our flagship Castle Museum; eleven new apprentices; multi-agency work with Our Colchester BID to manage and promote the Town Centre; supporting our residents to live healthier lives, and building more affordable council homes, among many other achievements.
“Together they demonstrate how, despite years of austerity and more recently the coronavirus crisis, we have continued to deliver exceptional improvements to the level of services we provide to our residents. A huge ‘thank you’ to all our hard-working officers who have worked, and continue to work, so diligently to achieve such outstanding results.”