Friday, 15 March 2013

Cornwall Council announces where Liberal Democrat / Conservative cuts may fall

Cornwall Council has published a statement which sets out the implications of the extra budgets voted through by the Liberal Democrats and their Conservative allies. It is all very disturbing and there will be both job cuts and a reduction in service provision.

Shown below are extracts from the statement, which explains where the cuts may fall:

Following the decision by the full Council to freeze the authority’s element of council tax, details of how the additional £4.672m savings will be delivered over the next twelve months will be reported to an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet on Monday, 18 March.

The budget agreed by Members at the meeting of the full Council on 26 February is predicated on a reduction of £3.672m on spending on agency staff, with an additional £400,000 reduction in the budget of the Strategy, Localism and Communications Service and an additional £600,000 increased target for council tax collection.  However, as was made clear in the Section 151 officer’s comments at the meeting, it is not possible to reduce agency staff costs in the way that was envisaged by the original motion.

Following the budget setting meeting on 26 February individual directorates were allocated specific savings targets in line with the Council decision. The report sets out how these will be delivered and the resulting impact on services.

Adult Care and Support (£840,000 savings)
The directorate currently employs agency staff to cover staff sickness and leave in day centres and respite centres where a minimum level of staff is legally required, to cover key posts such as social workers where there have been recruitment delays and to provide flexibility when reshaping services to avoid the cost of redundancies.

The savings will be delivered by reducing the numbers of agency staff.  In some cases agency posts will be replaced by recruiting staff onto council contracts at lower rates.  Some posts will not be replaced and this may lead to short notice temporary closure of services such as day centres which rely on the flexibility of agency staff to cover sickness. 

Children, Schools and Families (£906,000 savings)
The directorate uses agency staff particularly within Children’s Social Work and children’s centres.  These include social workers, administrators, play workers, crèche assistances, interpreters, case co-ordinators and drivers.   There is already a system in place to train and develop social workers locally through the Council’s social work foundation so that as people graduate from that the Council can then use them to replace higher paid agency social workers.

The savings will be delivered by reviewing and reducing agency staff, extending recruitment times for vacancies and potentially making emergency savings through cuts to front line services, including early help and preventative services.

Shared Services (£358,000 savings)
This service includes face to face services such as libraries, one stop shops, mobile services and the telephone contact centre. 

Face to Face services use agency staff to cover staff sickness, leave and training - without this these services would not be able to remain open at all times due to minimum staffing levels. The contact centre only uses agency staff to cover increased demand due to specific short term events and these are funded by the service (s) concerned, not the contact centre.

£80,000 of the savings requirement will be delivered by enhanced savings through the Strategic Partnership. Approximately 60% of the remaining £278,000 will be delivered by reducing the operating and opening times of libraries and one stop shops and reducing the opening hours of the contact centre as quickly as possible.   Alongside these changes, in order to deliver the full savings requirement, there will also need to be a wider review of libraries, one stop shops and mobile services for consideration by the new Council. 

Environment (£387,000 savings)
The Directorate deliberately uses agency staff to provide flexibility during re organisation and to deliver important capital projects such as new roads.

The reduction in the number of staff will lead to delays in processing requests and applications for waste and parking services; a reduced ability to influence and deliver major highways and rail improvement schemes, and potential impact on English Heritage funded archaeological projects.

Chief Executive’s (£674,000 savings)
Although the directorate does not employ significant numbers of agency staff it has been allocated a savings target of £274,000 to cover the cost of support staff used to develop the Strategic Partnership.  It also has to deliver the £400,000 agreed in the budget.

£166,000 of these savings will be delivered by the People and Organisational Development service through a restructuring of two teams, resulting in the loss of four posts and a reduction in the council’s capacity to support organisational change.

The remaining £510,000 will come from the Strategy, Localism and Communications service.  This will be met by deleting 14 posts and stopping some specific activities, including the Council presence at the Royal Cornwall Show, the production of the staff magazine and reducing the spending on webcasting.

Legal, Democratic and Procurement service (£122,000 savings)
The service uses a small number of agency staff as necessary to provide temporary cover pending permanent appointments and cope with additional workloads and sickness and maternity cover.

The savings will be delivered by deleting four posts across the service and reducing the overtime budget for Elections. 

Information Services (£488,000 savings)
The service uses agency staff to bring in specific expertise when the authority does not have the skills or knowledge in house and to fill gaps when permanent staff are hard to recruit.

£400,000 of the savings will be delivered through enhanced savings through the Strategic Partnership, with the remaining savings coming from the renegotiation of contracts.

Finance (£320,000 savings)
While the service has used a number of agency and interim staff over the past few months while carrying out a comprehensive redesign of the service to deliver £650,000 savings and to support the implementation of the Strategic partnership and ERP projects, these projects are now at an end, with the majority of these agency staff due to leave the authority by the end of April.  This means that the savings will have to be made by reducing the number of permanent staff by around 12 posts.

As the service has a number of statutory duties, including budgetary and financial control and the financial closure of accounts the savings cannot be made in these areas.  This means the cuts will have to be made in Financial Strategy and Business Partnership team, which provides financial advice to directorates for major service change, and in Internal Audit and Risk Management.  This will result in the provision of minimum statutory cover and the loss of preventative work in fraud and audit, which, in the long term, will cost money and may impact on the Council’s value for money assessment made by the External Auditor.

While the authority’s overall budget is set by Full Council, it is the responsibility of the Corporate Directors to decide how to implement the savings targets allocated to their specific areas. 

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