As a Metropolitan Fire Brigade it functions under the control of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority. Formed in 1986, the Authority is made up of 27 elected
members from the 3 cities and 4 districts in the area. The brigade is run under the command of the chief fire officer and his principal command team and provides emergency response from 39 fire stations across the region. The vision of the fire service is to “make the West Midlands safer” by offering a quality service aimed at preventing, protecting and responding.
The effective administration and management of day to day committee management processes was proving an increasingly time-consuming activity for the Authority. This was exacerbated by the need to keep committee members, drawn from a large geographical area, informed. Straight forward tasks such as providing information relating to members meetings and distributing the associated documents were taking an excessive amount of time and resource to fulfil. With these requirements in mind the Authority decided to look for a proven committee management system that:
- Contributed towards more efficient document management
- Gave access to all officers, members and the public
- Reduced printing costs by minimising the number of hard copies produced
- Minimised the time the committee services staff spent retrieving old or archived documents for other departments
Additional requirements were placed on the Authority by BVPI 157. This sets specific targets for the electronic provision of services, a key part of which is the obligation to publish committee papers for public consumption via the Internet. As this was a procedure the Authority was already following this feature was an important requirement of any chosen solution.
Sandwell MBC, the Fire Authority’s lead authority, had been successfully utilising CMIS for a number of years. Based on Sandwell’s recommendation the Fire Authority invited CMIS to outline how they would tailor the solution to deal with the requirements of a single-purpose authority. Once they were satisfied with the proposals they opted to implement CMIS.
CMIS was specifically designed to address the needs for committee and member services staff to be able to manage more effectively the democratic process and framework. Specifically, it allows members, officers and citizens to search for and find minute, report, agenda or resolution information from meetings via the Internet and any browser enabled device. CMIS enables committee and member services staff to more effectively manage the democratic process and framework, including current legislation. While members and citizens can access information from home, work or any public access point such as a kiosk or local library.
The system is totally secure with parameters and the availability of documents being controlled by Authority staff.
CMIS is now used by a number of authorities to help achieve e-Government targets. For the West Midlands Fire Authority the standard CMIS product was modified to cater specifically for the needs of a single-purpose authority.
The introduction of CMIS has allowed all of the Authority’s decision-making documentation (agendas, reports and records of decisions) to be made accessible across the
Internet. A standardised publishing format coupled with an easy-to-use Web-based interface means that information can now be easily accessed by committee services staff, members and citizens irrespective of their location.
Decision making within the Authority is more transparent as members’ history, attendance and political affiliation, together with their other committee memberships can be quickly accessed via the Website. This is important with regard the Authority meeting the central government targets for e-government. Processing and scheduling Authority meetings is now much easier due to CMIS’ inbuilt fully automated e-mail functionality, making the task of informing members about new or rescheduled meetings less time consuming.
Centralising information storage to one location and IT system has made it easier to share information both internally and publicly. It has also made the security and
backup of data easier to coordinate and manage. This has also helped to save on storage space for committee services staff and members.
CMIS has also provided the potential to make savings in printing budgets. The ability to dispatch agenda and reports electronically can minimise the number of hard copies produced and help the Authority become more sustainable in the future.