Scrutiny committee commends work to keep council services running

This week Fife Council’s Environment, Finance & Communities Scrutiny committee (1 June) reviewed an Audit Scotland report on the council’s digital progress, as well as a review of the contact centre’s operation during the pandemic.

Committee Chair, Cllr Tim Brett said: “It was very useful for the scrutiny committee to consider these reports together. They offer a good overview of how – and how well - the council has adapted, to maintain service delivery and customer contact since the first lockdown.

“Firstly, on behalf of the whole committee, I want to thank and congratulate officers for all the work that’s been put in to design, deploy and adjust to new tools, technology, processes and demands.

“Perhaps not everything worked perfectly to start with, but there’s no doubt that staff have made a tremendous effort to help residents, businesses and co-workers, in circumstances that were also very difficult for them as individuals.

“It’s heartening to note that the council had a solid technology base before Covid, including many accredited digital schools. Our Business Technology Solutions teams worked long hours to build on this and rapidly roll out solutions to support thousands of council employees, teachers and school pupils working and learning remotely.

“This included equipping our contact centre staff to pick up, log and escalate calls in their own homes.

“And we recognise that technology was only part of the response. For these staff, adapting to working without peer support - and often surrounded by families in lockdown - has been particularly challenging. But they rose to that challenge, answering almost as many calls in 2020-2021 as in previous years, and answering more of them faster. On top of which, some were trained and then dedicated to processing the various Coronavirus grants.

“We can see that the trend towards customer contact through social media and digital channels continues. And the council is committed to developing and improving our online services to make it as quick and easy as possible for most customers to do what they need without phoning. Leaving our trained staff free to advise people in more complicated situations or those who can’t get online.

“The scrutiny committee notes that, as these plans develop, it’s important the council stays focussed on the people aspects of digital services. The user-friendliness and accessibility of the tools we create; the impact of the changing world on individuals and communities; and how we can proactively engage with the 8% of the population who don’t use the internet.

“We do already have a range of help available. And now that libraries and local offices are back open, I’d encourage anyone without an internet connection – or anyone who has a device but isn’t confident in using it - to come and make use of our facilities and the friendly advice that’s on hand. You might need an appointment to do this at the moment.

“This committee will keep a watching brief on how the contact centre and online services are operating and evolving to support Fife’s recovery from the pandemic and the council’s reform agenda.”