Inside the council
“Almost 150 members of staff attended the latest round of staff briefings,” said Chief Executive Donald Graham. “Although I was delighted to see so many members of staff, questions were limited. Please know that your input is important and the exchange will never be confrontational – my aim is to answer your questions as fully and frankly as I can.”
At the sessions Donald gave an outline of the financial and economic challenges facing the council. He explained that the Local Government Association has anticipated a £14 billion shortfall in funding by 2019/20 and believe that 60% of councils are no longer able to meet the budget challenge through efficiency improvements alone. We have faced a cut of £875,000 in grants, have increased expenditure - including the cost of a 2% pay award for staff - combined with this being the sixth year we have frozen our part of the council tax. So, what is our approach to this? “We are becoming an entrepreneurial council,” said Donald. “We need to maximise our income through investment, fees and charges; continue to maximise efficiency; use our resources to support an increase in our revenues; review our assets; continue to explore shared services and partnership working; as well as maintain our support to the voluntary sector and invest in staff through training and development.
We also invited staff from across the council to provide an update from their service area. Corporate Communications Manager, Cath Shepherd, gave a quick overview of the residents’ survey, which was conducted between mid-November 2014 and mid-January 2015 with just over a thousand residents over the telephone. It covered overall satisfaction with the council, our services, online council information, contact with us and the local area. The results were generally very positive, with the survey echoing the results of previous years. Ninety per cent of people surveyed are satisfied with Hertsmere as a place to live, with the way the council runs things (89% satisfaction) and the quality of our services (84%). You can see the presentation given at the briefing or read the full results.
Jo Bateman from Electoral Services explained the change in our electoral cycle to whole council elections, which means all our councillors will be up for election at the same time. So, this year's general election will be combined with 83 local seats. The 2015 elections have also seen a change to the Electoral Registration system, which took place nationally in June 2014. Under the old system, electoral registration was taken at face value – a name, address and signature. The new system, called Individual Electoral Registration (IER) means that every applicant has to apply individually and provide personal identifiers, via their National Insurance Number and date of birth. These are sent to the Department of Work and Pensions to verify, making our electoral system more secure and less prone to fraud. A major improvement introduced under IER is the introduction of online registration, which has modernised the electoral registration system.
Jo urged other departments to signpost people who may not be registered to vote to electoral services and to check they themselves are registered. She also reminded staff to get in touch with her or Ben Magill if that want to work on 7 May, either at a polling station or at the count.
The sessions ended with presentation and video from Health and Safety Officer Andrew Turton. He reiterated what we all need to do to stay safe during a fire after our previous fire drill showed it took us seven minutes to evacutate the building. He explained it was vital to keep fire doors closed to slow the spread of smoke and the fire; to keep escape routes clear as visibility is greatly reduced; and to never block fire exits. He also stressed the importance of leaving the building at the nearest available exit, not necessarily by the way you came in; not stopping to collect personal items or drinks; to report to the assembly point; and to never return to the building unless told its safe by the Lead Fire Marshall.
To emphasis his session, Andrew showed a video of a fire at Bradford Football Club, which shows just how quickly a fire can spread and the dire consequences of fire doors being obstructed. The video is harrowing, but does show the importance of getting out of the building as quickly and safely as possible.
It’s purdah time
You’ve probably heard a lot of references to purdah recently – but what is purdah and what does it mean to you?
Basically, purdah is the period of time from when an election is announced until after the election is held. The purdah period starts on Thursday 26 March, which means there will be restrictions on publicity from this council until after the elections on 7 May.
The restrictions do not mean that we cannot undertake any publicity, but we must ensure that during purdah any publicity we are involved in must not be perceived as giving support to a candidate, their supporters, or a particular political party. We must also avoid issuing any publicity that deals with controversial issues or which reports views or policies in a way that identifies them with individual councillors or groups of councillors. For example, we cannot quote councillors in press releases or issue photos of them during this period.
If you have any questions or concerns about any publicity matters you are involved in during the purdah period please contact Corporate Communications or Paul Hughes, Democratic Services Manager.
Are you registered to vote?
That was the question council staff were asking shoppers at Tesco in Borehamwood last month.
In a bid to encourage people to ensure they are registered to have their say at the upcoming elections in May, Head of Democratic Services Paul Hughes, together with Jo Bateman and Ben Magill from Electoral Services, donned special t-shirts and held brightly coloured foam fingers at a registration road show on National Voter Registration Day.
"It was great to be able to get out in the borough with mobile devices to help people get registered on the spot," said Jo, Hertsmere's Principal Electoral Services Officer. "Anna from Corporate Communications was on hand tweeting and putting messages out on Facebook, so we were really able to spread the word.
“The registration process has recently changed so we are doing all we can to make sure people know what they have to do, if anything. You have to register on an individual basis now, as opposed to doing it on one form per household. This is why we’ve recently written to everyone to check the information we hold is correct. If you're not registered you won't get to have a say on what happens where you live and for the country as a whole. You can also be refused credit if you’re not on the electoral roll.”
You can register to vote online, it only takes a few minutes. Please note you will need your National Insurance (NI) number to register.
National Voter Registration Day is run by Bite the Ballot, a party neutral, not-for-profit community interest company.
For more information and to register to vote online call 020 8207 7481.
I'm in a democracy!
‘I’m in a democracy, get me out of here!’ shouted staff from Partnerships and Community Engagement at our eighth annual Youth Conference.
Nearly 80 pupils from five schools across Hertsmere came to the Civic Offices last week to get a unique opportunity to find out more about local democracy and to quiz some local councillors.
Fiona Pow, Youth and Projects Officer, said: “It was great to see all the young people be so enthusiastic about local democracy and really challenge our councillors during the speed meeting - I think we may have some budding politicians in our midst!
“The Youth Conference is an excellent way to get young people aged between 10 and 13 interested in local democracy through an interactive quiz and voting, as well as a performance by FLIP theatre.
“It’s important to get young people engaged. Thank you to everyone who came along to support the event, you helped make it a great success.”
Up on the roof
To paraphrase The Drifters ‘when this old world starts getting you down, head up on the roof, it’s as peaceful as can be’, which is the message to staff as discussions get underway to install a roof garden at the Civic Offices.
The project, being led by Head of Human Resources and Customer Services, Judith Fear, is to turn the south west roof space into a roof garden for staff. “We have the space, the views, it’s a blank canvas with bags of potential – so why aren’t we using it?” asks Judith.
“The plan is to create a roof top haven, not only for our resident bees and the local birds, but also for staff. We want to have an area where you can get some peace and quiet, fresh air, to exercise or as a place to get creative or enjoy social events. But, for it to work we need staff involvement. The original idea came from our Chief Executive, Donald Graham, who is acting as Project Sponsor."
The design will incorporate a green (living) roof system, so it will contribute to the environment and help the Civic Offices save on energy costs. Judith has been talking to lots of people in the Civic Offices, including members of the staff social club, and all sorts of suggestions and offers of help have been given already.
Over the next few weeks we will be seeking your views and suggestions on the development of the project and explaining how you can get involved, which could start with propagating seedlings on your window sill at work or helping plant and maintain the roof garden once it’s up and running.
For more information on the project or to have your say, please contact Judith Fear in Human Resources or see the PowerPoint presentation ‘Going for Gold’ for more information and pictures.
Get the message out!
Our residents can find out about the things that matter to them with our new e-alerts ‘News for You’.
News for You is our new way to keep people in the loop with the latest council news straight to their inbox – so, if you need to consult on the latest park designs, explain how to make a planning application or tell people about a change in fees, you can send out an email alert.
Speak to your Web Content Coordinator about sending out an email.
Also, please try to encourage people who call or email your department to sign up to receive ‘News for You’.
People can subscribe by clicking on the purple button on the homepage or visit our Facebook page.
Do you know a STAR at work?
The STARS award scheme has been changed so we have more opportunities to recognise and reward outstanding staff.
If a colleague shows great initiative or has come up with an innovative idea, actively supports others either within or outside of the council, or inspires others with their 'can do' attitude, then let us know. Alternatively, it could be that they're dedicated to providing a first class service or have a strong sense of commitment to the council.
Perhaps a team has come together to bring about improvements and change within the council, demonstrated the importance of partnership work or by working together has improved the service to our customers.
Or it could be our way to thank those members of staff who are giving something back to our local community in their own time, either through volunteer work or other community initiatives.
If you think they're a star and want to recognise the work they do, then make sure you nominate them!
If they win a STARS award they will receive a £50 voucher and a STAR plaque or paperweight.
You may have noticed Customer Services have new uniforms, modelled beautifully by Rezanne Veldman and Kris Barnes.
In the borough
And the survey says...
The results are in! Our latest residents’ survey has given us another insight into what our residents think of both the borough and the council.
Nine out of 10 residents remain satisfied with the area as a place to live and 89% are satisfied with the way the council runs things.
Respondents who were satisfied with the way the council runs things cited bin collections, cleanliness of the area and recreational facilities as key reasons and some commented about services being maintained despite on-going financial pressures on the public sector. On that note, 65% thought we provide good value for money, a 4% increase on the last survey, whilst 70% thought that we treat all people fairly, an increase of 5%.
Chief Executive Donald Graham welcomed the findings. “The results of this survey are really positive and generally sustain the position from the last survey. I’d like to thank you all for your continued hard work and professionalism. Well done.”
In relation to specific services provided by the council, of those residents surveyed: 84% were satisfied with doorstep recycling, 83% were satisfied with refuse collection, 75% were satisfied with street cleaning, and 81% were satisfied with grass cutting.
Positively, 99% of respondents feel safe when outside during the day and 80% feel safe outside at night, reflecting a 5% increase on the last survey. In addition, the majority of residents did not feel there was a significant problem with anti-social behaviour, including teenagers hanging around; rubbish or litter; vandalism; graffiti; people using or dealing drugs; drunk and rowdiness in public places; noisy neighbours; abandoned or burnt out cars. 72% considered that the council keeps them well informed.
Donald concluded: “There is no mistaking there have been difficult times over the past three years – we have had to look closely at all the services we offer and make savings wherever possible. We have tried to do that without affecting the quality of the services we deliver and I think these results show this.”
Read the full survey results.
The resident's survey is an independent survey commissioned every three years and it focuses on five main areas: overall satisfaction; council services; online information; contact with the council and their thoughts about their local area.
The survey was conducted over the phone with 1,005 residents between mid-November and early January.
We supported the first ever Child Sexual Exploitation awareness day in March and, as part of Hertfordshire’s ‘Say something if you see something’ campaign, key figures from across the county joined forces to play their part.
Throughout the day, council leaders, senior police officers and frontline staff pledged their support for the campaign on social media using #HelpingHands and #CSEDay15.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Morris Bright (pictured) and Chief Executive Donald Graham have both lent their support, urging everyone to look out for the signs of sexual abuse and to speak up if they have concerns.
For more information, visit Hertfordshire County Council.
Red Nose treats
With a selection of delicious cakes on offer, staff on the second floor helped raise hundreds of pounds for Comic Relief.
Thanks to your sweet tooth and generousity, you raised a mouth-watering £385 on Red Nose Day. Thanks to the staff on the second floor for their hard work and excellent baking!
Football's coming home - well almost!
Arsenal and Arsenal Ladies brought in their respective FA cups, along with the Community Shield, to the Civic Offices in February so that staff could have their photographs taken with a piece of history.
The event was organised by Helen Hopkins (pictured) thanks to her strong links and partnership work with the club. "We have great links with Arsenal and run many excellent schemes with the club within the local community – so I was delighted to be able to arrange for the cups to come into the Civic Offices so that staff could see them and help them celebrate their success.
"Even if you're not an Arsenal fan, it was a little bit of sporting history in our committee rooms!"
Bake it better
With a table full of delicious goodies on offer, you helped raise £454 for CLIC Sargent, Children’s Cancer Charity as part of Environmental Health’s Valentine’s bake off.
You showed a whole lot of love by buying the team’s cakes, biscuits and treats.
The team also raffled off a number of Valentine themed gifts. Maureen Chambers won the home baked cake, Ryno Hoben took home the wine; Mel Styles won some chocolates; Debbie Gee got a bottle of Proseco; Maggie Benson won the chocolates; Taz took home a teddy; Jenny Smith can look forward to a trip to Willows Farm thanks to some complimentary tickets and Mark McGinty won some sweets.
Congratulations to Customer Services Manager, Lee Gallagher, who married Lisa at a ceremony at Gaynes Park in Epping on Valentine's Day.
How well do you know our Commonwealth?
We joined our fellow member states across the world to mark the second ever Commonwealth Day in March. But how well do you know our Commonwealth?
As part of the celebrations the Mayor of Hertsmere, Councillor Carey Keates, held a competition for Hertsmere schoolchildren aged between five and 11 to identify as many of the 53 Commonwealth countries as possible on a map. We think it's pretty hard - see how many you can identify!
The winner of the competition, 10-year-old Carmen Gonzalez-Aller from Hartsbourne Primary School, attended the ceremony to help raise the Commonwealth Flag outside the Civic Offices.
You can read more about the Commonweath on the Commonwealth Day website.