Agenda item

Organisation Portfolio Holders Update

Updates from Executive Members in Corporate Policy & Resources, Finance, Governance & Organisation, Commercial & Community Assets


Members received briefings from the Organisation Portfolio Holders overseeing four areas of the Council’s work – Communication & Customer Contact; Finance, Governance & Organisation; Commercial & Community Assets; Corporate Policy & Resources.

The presentations from each of the Executive Members / Portfolio Holders were published on the Council’s website as part of the Committee’s agenda pack which can be viewed here:

Agenda for Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, 12th October, 2023, 7.30 pm | Reigate and Banstead Borough Council (

Several advance questions had been submitted regarding the Portfolio Holder Updates. The advance questions and responses can be viewed here:

Document Advance Questions and Answers OS 12 October 2023 | Reigate and Banstead Borough Council (

The Leader of the Council, Councillor Biggs, gave an overview of the Council’s work in Communications & Customer Contact and the Corporate Plan Review.

Communications & Customer contact

The way in which residents want to contact the Council is changing; work is underway to ensure needs are met, balancing the use of technology while maintaining telephone options and options for more vulnerable residents.

Regular effective communication with residents is continuing.

A communications toolkit providing a library of resources for use by services, is being produced.

Corporate Plan Review

A new Corporate Plan needs to be in place for 2025/26. Engagement with Members is underway and will continue.

Councillor Lewanski, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance, Governance and Organisation, gave an overview of the Council’s work in this area.

Organisational Development & Human Resources

The focus of work has particularly been around a revised service operating model, which has now been agreed and adopted and is delivering an ongoing saving.  Permanent recruitment to fill the team vacancies is now underway. Establishment management processes have been improved, which has included further scrutiny of vacancies throughout the Council. Roll out of real time people data to Senior Management Team and Heads of Service will follow next. The Employment Committee will be asked to endorse the revised OD & HR Strategy through to 2026/27 and an all staff survey will go live before the end of the calendar year, with analysis and action planning to follow in early 2024. 

Legal & Governance

Great progress has been made in ensuring sound governance and transparency. Once again, the May elections went very smoothly despite the challenges of introducing Voter ID. Looking ahead, future plans include reviews of the Constitution and Code of Corporate Governance to ensure they remain relevant and fit for purpose. Replacement of the Council Chamber webcasting equipment is progressing to plan.

Mayoral & Civic Events

It has been another busy year, with one regret that the recent Volunteer Awards event at the Harlequin had to be cancelled while the building is closed.

Revenues & Fraud

Performance for council tax and business rates collection rates remains strong; the Council’s counter-fraud team’s achievements have been recognised in a national excellence award, while the external customer base continues to grow.


As summarised in the slides and in the many finance updates to O&S throughout the year – the Council remains in a position of relative strength but acknowledges that the challenge of budget setting does not get any easier.

Members made observations and asked questions on the following areas:


It was confirmed that the ongoing budget saving of £100k per annum was sustainable. The saving had been achieved by deleting funded posts, decreasing Full Time Equivalent numbers from 13 to 11. It was confirmed that the new staff structure was appropriate for the service going forward. Any proposal for future growth in the service would have to be submitted through the service & financial planning budget growth proposal process with a supporting business case.

Mayoral & Civic Events

It was confirmed that the Volunteer Awards would not be held at an alternative venue and that awards had been sent and some award winners had received personal visits.

Revenues & Fraud

The Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance, Governance and Organisation, confirmed that proposed Cabinet Office savings were expected from the NFI Data Matching Review highlighting fraudulent activity.


It was confirmed that Central Reserves were at a “healthy” level of £38million.

Councillor Andrew King, Portfolio holder for Commercial and Community Assets, gave an overview of the Council’s work.

Property Assets

The Council has continued to ensure that void space is reduced as much as possible and that asset running costs are being controlled, including entering into new energy contracts. Asset acquisitions have focused on sites of strategic importance, such as Reading Arch Road. The Light has opened.


The Council has continued to progress its strategy of exiting arrangements in a controlled way with regular updates to the Partnership, Shareholder, and Trustee Executive Sub Committee (PSTESC) and Overview & Scrutiny Committee.


PSTESC has taken on formal responsibility for overseeing charities and ensuring compliance with annual trustee reporting requirements. The next report is scheduled for December 2023.

Members made observations and asked questions on the following areas:

Property Assets

It was confirmed that options for the future use of Beech House were being considered. A report would be presented to the PSTESC when they are ready for consideration.

It was confirmed that the three properties in Reading Arch Road had all been commercially let. An officer working group had been set up to consider future options for these properties and would report to Members in the future. The Local Plan allocation sees the site allocated for mixed-use redevelopment.

It was confirmed that quarterly reports are now submitted to PSTESC providing in depth detail on the Council’s assets and are available to view on the Council’s website. Vacant properties reported in 2021/22 were now all let. Recent voids had been caused by tenants losing funding and businesses downscaling their office space. The three park cafes were temporarily closed for refurbishment and lease terms had been agreed with the new tenants.

Councillor James King, Portfolio Holder for Policy and Resources, gave an overview of the Council’s work.

Corporate Policy

An approach to the development of Council strategies has been agreed. Work on the Corporate Assurance Framework is underway.


The IT strategy is being progressed, with three main strands – disaster recovery, telephony and communications system, and cyber defence, due to be finalised by the end of December 2023. Following completion of the IT strategy, the level of IT resource will be reviewed to help with IT project delivery.

Data and Insight

The Data and Insight team have made valuable contributions to areas of Council priority such as the Financial Sustainability Programme, strategy development and rolling out Power BI across services.

Members made observations and asked questions on the following areas:


It was confirmed that the IT Strategy had a clear line on IT support for Members but that this could be looked at again following the review of IT resourcing. The Chair suggested that a questionnaire could be sent to Members to canvas the level of need for IT support.

Data and Insight

It was confirmed that the approximate annual cost of the Data and Insight team was £160,000. The possibility of commissioning this service from an outside provider was being considered, but this would incur a charge for discovery work for each project, adding an additional cost pressure which would not be present if using the internal service. The possibility of marketing the Council’s Data and Insight team’s services externally was also being considered.

The use of Power BI, a data visualisation tool (allowing users to interrogate complex data easily), is being rolled out and can be a valuable tool in the reporting of KPI Performance Indicators. A data community is in existence to assist services to use data more effectively. Having evidence-based strategies was important and an in-house Data and Insight team provides a resource for services to engage with at the early stages to best inform strategy development. Power BI has the potential to be a valuable tool in the reporting of Key Performance Indicators – this is currently being explored. There are approximately 500 internal data sets at the disposal of the Council, largely used by individual services for their needs, as well as access to a wide range of external data and insight; the Data and Insight team have the ability to overlay many complex data sets, to draw out insights from these and use to inform more relevant strategy development and targeting of resources.

It was confirmed that Power BI was included in the existing Microsoft 365 licences held across the Council, so incurred no additional cost.

The Chair recommended that Members view the monthly project dashboards. The Clerk would circulate a link.

RESOLVED that the Committee:

Noted the Portfolio Holder Updates on activities undertaken within the Organisation Portfolio service and policy areas.

Supporting documents: