Ian Bynoe has released his independent report into HS2 Ltd's complaints handling and community engagement, following the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's earlier report on an investigation into complaints about HS2 Ltd.
You can read a copy of Ian's report here.
Ian is a former Acting Deputy Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and he has made a number of recommendations for HS2 Ltd to improve their processes. His report, across 34 pages, goes into considerable detail and uses the case of Mr and Mrs D in Lichfield to outline areas where HS2 Ltd have been lacking. Briefly, these recommendations are:
Recommendation 1: that HS2 Ltd issue instructions that mobile phone number(s) for senior staff be provided to members of the public who may need to make contact urgently. (Paragraph 3.72)
Recommendation 2: that Terms of Reference for community forums and bilateral meetings be altered to make explicit reference to the commitments to openness, customer focus and accountability now reflected in policy documents, Company values and other materials. (Paragraph 3.73)
Recommendation 3: that the Residents' Commissioner considers the Report's observations on the wording of the Residents' Charter and how it can be altered, testing proposals with members of the public before they are introduced. (Paragraph 3.74)
Recommendation 4: that the Company as soon as possible and practicable:
- approves its strategy for Community Engagement
- defines clear milestones for the implementation of the strategy
- defines measurement mechanisms by which the quality and effectiveness of its community engagement activity can be monitored
- designs and implements a practicable and effective system for learning and implementing lessons from less effective community engagement or any such engagement activities which have attracted justified criticism and/or complaint (Paragraph 3.78)
Recommendation 5: that the DfT amends the Development Agreement to require the Company to have a strategy on community engagement and to ensure that Ministers can hold the Company to account for its effective delivery. (Paragraph 3.79)
Recommendation 6: (after Recommendation 4 has been implemented) that the Company revise and republish its Information Paper on Community Engagement so the public may learn:
- what the Company's community engagement strategy is and how it may develop
- what they may reasonably expect to receive from the Company by way of communication and engagement
- how the Company will measure the effectiveness and quality of its community engagement, and
- how the Company will learn and implement lessons where community engagement has failed or been less effective, or has been the subject of justified criticism or complaint (Paragraph 3.80)
Recommendation 7: that HS2 Ltd's CEO commissions a project which will result in the Company's agreed corporate Values having far greater prominence in the work environment and where the Company has any interface with the public (e.g. website, information events and leaflets). (Paragraph 3.81)
Recommendation 8: that two reported obstacles to effective and responsive communication with the public (viz. some operating practices of the Help Desk and the use of the GOV.UK website for HS2 Ltd's web based communication) should be urgently examined from an independent, "customer focused" perspective to establish if the concerns are justified and, if they are, to recommend the necessary changes. (Paragraph 3.82)
Recommendation 9: that the Company's Complaints Procedure be amended to reflect the need for central recording both of informal and formal complaints and that this change in practice be promulgated throughout the organisation. (Paragraph 4.21)
Recommendation 10: that a printed leaflet be produced as soon as possible publicising the Company's Complaints Procedure which should be made freely available at all information events and community forums. (Paragraph 4.25)
Recommendation 11: that the Company should publicise its Complaints Procedure and its formal approach to dealing with public dissatisfaction at all future public information events, community forums and bilateral meetings, by having, for example, a banner or poster communicating this message. (Paragraph 4.26)
Recommendation 12: that the Residents' Commissioner, current ICAs and Construction Commissioner, when appointed, should have an early meeting to assist them to understand their respective roles and responsibilities. (Paragraph 4.27)
Recommendation 13: that the Residents' Commissioner should be supplied with regular reports on all complaints relating to her fields of responsibility, viz. communications, community engagement and the property schemes and on other cases, by request. (Paragraph 4.28)
Suggestion: I suggest that there may be benefits in convening a Community Engagement Advisory Panel, drawn from those who have recent and relevant experience of community engagement work on large infrastructure schemes, both in providing and receiving it. This panel could provide a sounding board for new thinking and plans for communications and engagement.
I have written to Simon Kirby, Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd, to support the recommendations made by Ian Bynoe. You can read Simon's response to Ian here.