Last Thursday there was a Community Overview & Scrutiny Panel to review Tivoli. I am a member of that Panel. Its purpose was to identify from residents, Members and Parishes what has gone wrong with the contract, why and thus what needs to be addressed. It was NOT to discuss contractual issues. The Chair made it clear contractual matters would be dealt with by a separate Panel.
A Report was produced by officers and circulated a week before the meeting.
The Minutes are not yet published. You can see and hear for yourself what took place…
But here’s my take (which is a lot shorter than listening to the 3 hour meeting!)
• Officers presented their report, Tivoli explained the difficulties they experienced and admitted they had failed to deliver. Officers and Tivoli agreed that around eight weeks ago they had really begun to move forward, working together well. The Lead Cabinet Member spoke briefly and pointed out his experience told him it was better to try and resolve issues with a contractor than find a new one – a case of avoiding “out of the frying pan into the fire”.
• Only three residents spoke which shocked many of us considering how voluble residents have been on social media and in correspondence with their Ward Councillors. They spoke about the state of disrepair of our cemeteries and unemptied bins.
• Many Councillors spoke and expressed the problems in their Wards, highlighting that reports and emails appeared to fall into a “black hole” when no response was received or action taken. You could hear the frustration (experienced by me as well) of just not being able to progress residents’ issues.
• Individual Panel members spoke, and apart from Cllr Del Campo and me, concentrated on their Ward Issues.
• Cllr Del Campo asked questions of the officers’ report as well as of Tivoli. • I decided that the issues I have been experiencing had all been expressed by others so tried to concentrate on the bigger picture and the lessons learned and how we would move forward.
Communication with Members and residents needs to be improved so we all know what’s happening and why. A brochure on hedge cutting to be distributed widely.
Sufficiently robust Council driven quality control systems have not been in place to check that Tivoli had been delivering. A recent reorganisation is now enabling RBWM to implement better quality control.
REPORT IT SYSTEM
This is not delivering and is going to be reviewed to find out why so many reports are disappearing into a black hole. The system will be tweaked to make the reporting more user-friendly. As a Ward Councillor I have had an assurance that those matters I had taken up on behalf of residents which had disappeared into “the black hole” will be investigated, and I understand the same for other Councillors. I did suggest that Councillors could use a different system to report items but unsure if this suggestion is being taken up.
Whilst residents getting involved in improving their community is to be welcomed I pointed out that if they are doing the work that a contractor is paid to do this needs to be known to officers. As a Ward councillor I keep the relevant officer informed of litter picks that I’m aware of so they understand a task has been completed by residents not the contractor.
Around six months ago Councillors were asked if they needed more bins in their Ward. I walked my Ward and identified where these were required. I asked why this hadn’t been actioned and was informed that a capital bid has been submitted for next year.
The Report suggested that officers report back to the Panel in April 2022. I requested that we be supplied with regular progress reports between now and then, Tivoli and officers agreed to produce bi-monthly reports so we can be assured things are back on track.
LESSON LEARNT FOR THE PANEL
• As a Panel member I have recommended we review the process and learn lessons in order to improve for the next time we review/scrutinise an area, eg why were there so few residents, how was this communicated? How were the two non parished areas of Windsor and Maidenhead asked for views, why was the presentation not circulated in advance? Etc.