Councillor W Stamp referred to the recent transformation undergone by the Council and the reference by other Members at this meeting to limited staff resource. She asked the Leader of the Council if he agreed with her that at this stage whether the Council had been too harsh by trimming the workforce down so much. In response the Leader of the Council provided detailed information regarding the transformation process, the savings it had delivered and how the process had aided the Council when it had to implement emergency powers in light of the COVID-19 emergency, enabling a seamless transition from the Council buildings to working remotely. He advised that he was happy with the full council transformation and the output it gave, it did make the Council agile and had allowed it to work remotely and as a result would probably change working practices in the future. At this point he commended the Council’s staff on the way they were working remotely highlighted the revenues and benefits team.
Councillor K M H Lagan referred to earlier comments from both Directors and the Leader regarding business as usual and how the Council should be working more effectively with the strategies in place and IT investment. He felt that the Council should carry out a complete review once through the current health crisis and highlighted the need for the Council to resume in a face to face capacity to represent the people and deliver the quality of services it needed to deliver, with services like revenues and benefits prioritised. In response, the Leader of the Council thanked Councillor Lagan for the questions and emails he had sent him. The Leader provided the Council with detailed information regarding current working arrangements, including resources and drew attention to how resources had been diverted to deal with paying out the £17m of government grants to local businesses. It was noted that payment of discretionary grants was due to start on Monday 4 June. He explained that if a review was undertaken of the last 8 / 10 weeks performance the Council was ahead of the curve compared with other Councils and should be proud of what had been achieved (particularly by officers). The Leader agreed with Councillor Lagan that there should be a review, but when the time was right. He referred to comments raised by Councillors C Mayes and N Skeens prior to the lockdown and the importance of getting Maldon High Street arrangements in place.
Councillor C Mayes asked the Leader of the Council why (referring to Maldon High Street) the plans outlined in a meeting earlier today by Director of Service Delivery, shared with the public via the Maldon Business Board earlier this week gave the impression that this was a done deal. The Leader of the Council advised that he was unaware that the conversation had taken place with the Maldon Business Board, but highlighted discussions with the Leader of the Opposition and the Interim Measures Board. The Interim Measures Board had discussed, and Directors advised that as the work on Maldon High Street progressed Ward Members would be involved as well as informing and working with Maldon Town Council. The Leader assured Members that the Council was working on this project which was moving extremely quickly, responding as new guidelines emerged, liaising with organisations as appropriate and working to delivery from the grant received.
Councillor Lagan left the meeting at this point and did not return.