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Going undercover - and coming up proud

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Delivering meals to the elderly , dealing with complaints and walking the beat on the borough’s streets - not a normal week for me, but one that really brought home how much people value the services we provide.

When the request came in to go ‘undercover’ amongst my own workforce I was sceptical at first, but it quickly became clear it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Here in Tower Hamlets we have to find in the region of £65m of savings over the next three years. We have already identified almost £8m of savings in-year, but like all local authorities we know that we’re facing tough times ahead.

‘Undercover Boss’ presented me with a unique chance to really get to know our services and our staff - to learn where there’s real value in the services we provide.

As a trainee called Colin, I worked alongside our pest control team, as a market inspector and a housing officer. I shadowed our Tower Hamlets Enforcement Officers and spent a day delivering meals to the elderly.

I saw first hand the quality of the services provided and the commitment of the people delivering them. And I came away with their ideas and suggestions about how to make these services even better.

I saw that our Meals on Wheels service, for example, is truly excellent.  For many people, the team are the only people they see each day. To watch our staff deliver fresh, healthy meals with such levels of professionalism, respect and integrity was wonderful.

And it was noticeable that at no point did any of the residents that staff came into contact with seem surprised by the service they received; it was clear that they had come to expect these high standards.

I can honestly say that I went home every night proud of my colleagues.

  • Undercover Boss is on Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursday 22 July

Kevan Collins, chief executive, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

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