For the Select Committee to scrutinise the proposals for revenue savings
for areas within the Policy and Resources budget under the
Transformation to 2019 programme, in advance of consideration by the
Executive Member for Policy and Resources on the afternoon of
22 September 2017.
The Select Committee received a presentation on behalf of the Chief Executive, Director of Corporate Resources, Director of Transformation and Governance, and Director of Culture Communities and Business Services, in summary of a report regarding the Transformation to 2019 Revenue Savings Proposals for the Policy and Resources Budget (see Item 6 in the Minute Book).
Members were reminded of the overall financial position of the County Council and the savings already made under the ‘Transformation to 2017’ programme. This included a reduction in Member grants to £5,000 per Member per year. It had been agreed to top this up to £8,000 per Member per year for 2017/18 and 2018/19, so the reduction would apply from 2019/20.
Consultation had been undertaken on the opportunities to balance the budget, which showed support for the current financial strategy. It was noted that the savings target for the Policy and Resources budget was £15 million under the ‘Transformation to 2019’ programme. Where savings proposals directly impact the public, further consultation would be undertaken on the specific proposals prior to decision on how those savings would be implemented. The majority of savings under the Policy and Resources budget would come from reducing demand, reducing staff, efficiencies and generating income.
Members asked questions to seek clarification and debated the proposals. Members queried how savings could be made in IT when other departments were reliant on support from IT to achieve other savings. It was reported that the Cabinet was due to consider a revised Medium Term Financial Strategy, and any additional one off investment in IT to fund transformation programmes would be considered within this report. However, there remained opportunities to make efficiencies in ongoing IT costs.
Regarding making savings through ‘channel shift’, it was confirmed that it would remain possible to contact the Council by phone, however it was intended to reduce the volume of calls by diverting some users to accessing help online instead.
Regarding savings in Trading Standards, it was noted that this may include stopping or changing non statutory services, or generating income from discretionary services. Members expressed interest in scrutinising the proposals affecting trading standards, once further detail had been worked up.
Regarding non-departmental budgets, the proposed position was to avoid further reducing the funding available for member grants and grants to voluntary sector infrastructure organisations. It was proposed to provide the savings in this budget area through reducing the contribution to the corporate policy reserve.
Regarding the opportunity to avoid the need for savings by raising Council Tax instead, it was noted that a 1% increase in Council tax would provide around £5.7 million in revenue, therefore in order to meet the £140 million budget gap Council Tax would need to increase by 30%.
It was noted that the budget planning included an assumption of a 1% growth in the salary budget up to 2019/20 and an allowance of £5 million to accommodate the impact of the national minimum wage.
After each Select Committee had considered the proposals for the budget within their remit, the proposals would be considered by the relevant Executive Members. Then the combined proposals would be considered by Cabinet in October, and then put forward to full Council for decision on 2 November 2017.
Following the debate, the Chairman proposed the recommendation, which was put to the vote and carried (with 3 against).
That the Policy and Resources Select Committee support the submission to Cabinet of the proposed savings options contained in the report and its Appendix 1.