5. Engagement in the process
A project of this scale and complexity took place over a long period of time. In fact, an operational desire to relocate had 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 received criticism for its lack of transparency resulting from efforts made by the council to restrict information which was inherently commercially sensitive.
The council published information in accordance with specific guidance from the Information Commissioner without creating commercial risks for the project.
There were regular update reports to Cabinet and Full Council to keep everyone abreast of the progress of this lengthy project.
Throughout the project, the council kept its staff informed of the progress and plans. Engagement with our staff continued through a variety of different channels and was considered effective. In a staff engagement survey, 93% of staff said they would recommend working at East Devon.
Staff engagement throughout the project was been paramount and in February 2016 the council retained its Gold Investor in People status. The assessor commented:
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.
Staff engagement in this particular project continued through our use of worksmart workshops and our internal communication channels.