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‘We must aim for John Lewis quality of service’, says Birmingham council boss

‘We must aim for John Lewis quality of service’, says Birmingham council boss

🕔03.Oct 2014

Birmingham city council should be like a John Lewis store where everything you need is under one roof and the service is brilliant, the authority’s chief executive has stated.

Mark Rogers said the council would have to change its ways, find new ways of working, and be clear about the priority services it could afford to run in an era of huge cuts in local government spending.

His comments appeared to suggest that what remains of local authority service provision will increasingly be based online or in one-stop-shop neighbourhood offices where multi-skilled staff can deal with a wide range of customer inquiries.

But his commitment that staff would “do the right thing every day first time” took a knock when a new study showed huge public discontent with the way the council deals with the public.

The survey showed that only 41 per cent of those quizzed felt that they had been helped when contacting the council call centre, and only 43 per cent were satisfied with the service they received.

The findings are a blow for Capita-run Service Birmingham, which is in charge of the call centre.

Earlier this year council leaders agreed to bring the centre back in-house from November.

Mr Rogers told a scrutiny committee meeting that a slimmed-down council of the future would have to be clear about the level of public services it could offer. Tough decisions would be needed to identify priority services.

He said: “I am a great believer in having absolute clarity about the outcomes we are trying to make a difference to. We will never survive with far fewer staff unless we are clear what we are trying to make a difference to.”

He spoke of bringing cultural change to the council’s workplace methods: “Do we have a workforce that is driven by the right values? We are here to make a positive difference to people’s lives every day of the week.

“There’s a big play on the importance of us having the right values that drives us every single day to do the right thing first time. I roll up to work each day to serve the public. That’s at the heart of everything.

“We need a persistent focus on how we get leaders to lead and managers to manage and how we help them, and where we need to cajole staff to have the right skills, knowledge and understanding to do the right job for the future. That’s a big deal for me.

“Going from 21,000 employees to 7,000 is a big challenge. It’s about making sure the people we still have and the partners they have to work with are fit for the future.”

Mr Rogers agreed that the reputation of the council would be founded “on the way we engage with the public, the way we greet them and the way our website works”.

“We should not allow a very small number of things that haven’t gone right to be a risk to our reputation. It is a very small number but it looms large.”

He accepted that most of the social inequality in Birmingham 40 years ago still existed today. It was essential to decide which areas of need should be tackled more urgently than others.

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