March 2015

Welcome

Chief's brief

Chief Executive Donald GrahamThe daffodils are out and a welcome sign that spring is here, finally. We are hoping to make the most of the weather in the future by introducing a roof garden at the Civic Offices. The project is in its infancy, but I truly believe that a quiet outside area will improve the health and wellbeing of us all - what better way to de-stress than amongst flowers in the sun watching the honey bees at work!

As usual at this time of year we have been working hard to balance our budgets while demands for services remain unabated. It’s great news that we have been able to give staff a two per cent pay increase, while at the same time freeze our portion of council tax for the sixth consecutive year.

So, a big thank you for enabling us to maintain this situation while at the same time increase levels of revenue. We also hope to be able to approve several major projects later in the year that will represent significant investments to Hertsmere, being good for both the council and our community.

At the recent all staff briefings I was able to provide an update on our current financial situation, as well as major developments within the council. If you missed the sessions please take time to read what was discussed and the presentations given.

I am proud to say your hard work has been recognised by our residents – you can read more about our residents’ survey inside as well as see the full results. Many of you have ‘behind the scenes’ roles. Please know that I can see you do this quietly and diligently, and it has been noticed. Keep up the great work.

Within this edition, there is also guidance on purdah and what it means to you; a reminder of email etiquette and the usual mix of council and staff news.

Donald

Inside the council

Staff briefing

“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

election countYou’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?

Voting Voting Voting

 

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!

Youth Conference‘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.

roofThe 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.

Roof viewOver 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.

 


Roof garden visionRoof garden vision

 

Get the message out!

News for You banner

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’.

Subscription buttonPeople can subscribe by clicking on the purple button on the homepage or visit our Facebook page.

Do you know a STAR at work?

STARS posterThe 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.

New uniforms

You may have noticed Customer Services have new uniforms, modelled beautifully by Rezanne Veldman and Kris Barnes.

Customer Services new clothes

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.

Ripton Park gymRespondents 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.”

RecyclingIn 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.

PSCOPositively, 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.

#helping hands

Cllr Morris BrightWe 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.

Feature focus

Think before you press send!

Email imageEmails have taken over communications – many of us hardly talk on the phone to each other, the letter is almost non-existent and anyone under the age of 20 probably doesn’t even remember the good old fashioned memo!

Although we send and receive emails everyday to friends, colleagues, other organisations and customers, we all have some bad habits.

There are certain professional standards expected for work emails, so please take the time to read on.

 

Is email the best way to send this information?

  • Don't use email as an excuse to avoid personal contact or if you are sending confusing or emotional messages, it is always better to speak to the person. Remember your tone can't be heard in an email!
  • And finally, do not get personal. It is not appropriate to give your personal opinion on council matters or decisions to a third party. Doing so could put the council or yourself in a difficult position in the future.

So, what style is appropriate?

  • Make sure your email includes a courteous greeting and closing, this helps to make your email not seem demanding or terse.
  • Address your contact with the appropriate level of formality and make sure you spell their name correctly.
  • Use the spell check! Emails with typos are not taken as seriously.
  • Read your email out loud to ensure the tone is correct. A few additions of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ go a long way!
  • Be sure you are including all relevant details or information necessary to understand your request or point of view, generalities can cause confusion.
  • Keep your email brief and to the point with one subject per message where possible. Save long conversations for the old fashioned telephone.
  • Use sentence case. CAPITAL LETTERS LOOK AS IF YOU'RE SHOUTING and all lowercase looks lazy. Do not use a lot of colours or graphics in your message, not everyone uses an email program that can display them and don’t use emoticons on work emails.
  • Be informal, not sloppy. Your emails reflect on you and the council, so spelling, grammar, and punctuation rules apply. Multiple instances of !!! or ??? are perceived as rude or condescending.
  • Use the subject field to indicate content and purpose.
  • Try not to make assumptions when it comes to email. Always ask for clarification before you react.
  • Even though it isn't right; emails are forwarded to others. Keep this in mind when typing about emotional or controversial topics.

Who do you send it to?

  • Remember emails are not private. Work emails are considered council property and can be retrieved, examined, and used in a court of law or as part of a Freedom of Information request. Also, emails can easily be forwarded as well as inadvertently sent to the wrong person!
  • Don't forward chain letters, virus warnings, or junk mail.
  • Use blind copy and courtesy copy appropriately. Copy only people who are directly involved.
  • Be sparing with group email. Use only when it's useful to every recipient.
  • Refrain from using the Reply to All feature to give your opinion to those who may not be interested. In most cases replying to the sender alone is your best course of action.

And finally…

Take the time to re-read your email before you press send!

Coffee break

Red Nose treats

Landy, Maxine and MinaWith 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!

Red Nose Day bake sale

Football's coming home - well almost!

Helen BottomleyArsenal 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

Valentine bake sale

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!

Lisa and Lee weddingCongratulations to Customer Services Manager, Lee Gallagher, who married Lisa at a ceremony at Gaynes Park in Epping on Valentine's Day.

Poppy appeal

Poppy appeal

How well do you know our Commonwealth?

Commonwealth Day groupWe 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.

Staff news

In perfect health!

Forty-five members of staff have been recognised for no sick between 1 January 2014 and 31 January 2015.

Gavin Burns, Rosalyn Morris and Yvette Statham from Environmental Health; Reginald Cheek, Soomunsingh Gopal, Stephen Gorick, Michael Hatton, Stephen Smith, Lynn Boswell, Annette Walker and Denise King from Finance, Revenues and Benefits; Andrew Chittenden and Rhian Williams from Housing; Derek Climo, Anthony Coen, Steven Dean, Jonathan Hawes, Steven Martell, Tony Pine, Matthew Pope, Gabor Mitiner, Helen Soderquist and David Smith from Waste and Street Scene; Shani Coleman, Lee Gallagher, Mark Roberts, Lorna Marshall and Jacqueline Kempton from Human Resources and Customer Services; Patrick Folan, Mark McGinty and Michael Wallace from Planning and Building Control; Simon Payton, Colin Tester, Terence Batchelor and Alexander Digby from Engineering Services; Helen Hopkins, Catherine Shepherd and Ruth Stratton from Partnership and Community Engagement; Linda Clark and Sandra Di Paolo from Legal and Democratic Services; Richard Stubbs from Asset Management; Clare Fensome from Parking Services; John Robinson and Christopher Westlake from Information Services; and Caroline Carey from the Executive Suite.

Good bye and good luck!

Kate PennGoodbye and good luck to Kate Penn from Environmental Health, who left in January and Andrew Rudge from Planning an Building Control who left last month.

 

Long service awards

Keith Sudbury from Environmental Health; Matthew Kajie and Anthony Coen from Waste and Street Scene have been awarded £200 in recognition of 10 years long service at the council.

What's on

What's on at The Ark

The Ark

 

 

The Ark - spring concertSpring Fever – Rotary Club’s charity show at The Ark. 7pm on Saturday 21 March

 

A piano recital featuring concert pianist Michael Harvey, 7.30pm on Sunday 22 March

Michael Harvey will be performing works by: Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Liszt, Horowitz as well as some of his own compositions.

 

Fairy Tales and Gangsters, 2pm and 6.30pm on Saturday 28 March and 2pm and 6.30pm on Sunday 29 March

The Beverley School of Performing Arts (BSPA) presents an exciting showcase of dance and drama. Come and be enchanted by a wonderland of baby ballet bumble bees and delightful dancers then swing into the roaring '20s and enjoy the razzle dazzle of spats hats and jazzy taps!

 

HITs Super Hero Academy, 10.30am to 3pm on Tuesday 14 April

Herts Inclusive Theatre are back with an extra helping of holiday fun. Join us on this Easter for an action–packed day of superhero activities including a special screening of the Lego Movie & free popcorn for all.   
Don your capes, masks and best superhero outfits and find your inner hero! Take part in interactive games, arts & crafts and much more!   
This one-off Easter activity event provides a safe, fun and engaging experience for children aged four to 16 years.

Bookings can be made online at The Ark Theatre or by calling the box office on 020 8238 7288 (9am to 4pm).

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