5. Engagement in the process
A project of this scale and complexity happens over the course of a long period of time. In fact an operational desire to relocate has been on the cards since 2008 when members instructed one of the council’s directors to look at the options for a new headquarters. The idea gained extra momentum in response to the challenge of government cuts. A project team was set up to investigate a move from Knowle so that we could avoid the need to cut front line services.
We have consistently worked hard on keeping residents and stakeholders informed through a variety of different channels. At the outset of the project there were communication events in Sidmouth coupled with two stakeholder events to outline the reasons why relocation was considered necessary.
There have been many press releases outlining the progress of the project.
The project has received criticism for its lack of transparency resulting from efforts made by the council to restrict information which was inherently commercially sensitive. Going forward the council publishes information in accordance with specific guidance from the Information Commissioner and as soon as it can do so without creating commercial risks for the project.
There are regular update reports to Cabinet and Full Council to help keep everyone abreast of the progress of this lengthy project.
Throughout the project the council has kept its staff informed of the progress and plans. Engagement with our staff continues through a variety of different channels and is considered effective. In a recent staff engagement survey 93% of staff said they would recommend working at East Devon.
Staff engagement throughout the project has been paramount and in February 2016 the council retained its Gold Investor in People status with the assessor commenting ‘there are many examples where people feel really engaged and part of the consultation process. This means not just people at head office but those based at more remote locations in smaller teams and this is largely down to excellent team leadership and understanding effective communication’.
We will continue staff engagement in this particular project through our ongoing use of worksmart workshops and our usual internal communication channels.