Initial Savings in respect of 2017-18
To consider the above report
Members considered savings proposals to reduce the council’s expenditure by £6,107,000 in 2017-18.
Councillor Rankin explained that in the interest of transparency and openness, the report lay out in summary how the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) presented and approved by Full Council in February 2016 would be achieved. Very little in the report should surprise Members at the overwhelming majority of the recommendations had been through Overview and Scrutiny, Cabinet or Employment Panel. There would be more detail at Cabinet on 15 December and again in the new year. It was important to give clarity on the bigger picture to demonstrate the MTFP could be achieved and to add transparency so the savings were not buried in the budget book. Councillor Rankin proposed additional wording to the recommendation to reflect the Cabinet process still to come, following comments from the Opposition.
It was noted that authorisation at this stage would allow for the full-year effect. Naturally each saving would be signed off by the Lead Member and Strategic Director.
Councillor Rankin proposed an additional recommendation to primarily reduce duplication in the council an streamline processes that would wrap up the Participatory Budget schemes and roll them into the Grants Panel process.
Councillor McWilliams commented that the report clearly set out the vision for the council, which was further down the line of transformation than other councils. The council was using its land holdings prudently and was working with the private sector and third sector to ensure the challenges of a reduced budget were met.
Councillor Dudley thanked all officers for their work in putting the budget together, and Lead Members and councillors who had also been involved. Savings of £6.1m were being achieved whilst investing heavily in areas such as home to school transport, temporary accommodation for vulnerable residents, social workers and the planning department and increasing grants to voluntary organisations.
Councillor Coppinger commented that all were aware that adult social care was a national crisis as people were living longer. Over the last two years the borough population had risen by 1.1%. The population aged over 65 had risen by 5.6% and aged over 85 had risen by 8%. This put a tremendous strain on services. Every year the council added funding to the adult social care budget to deal with the increase. In the previous year costs had to be covered by underspends in other directorates and the use of reserves. Yet there had been no cut in services. The council had taken advantage of the adult service precept to increase spending by £3m, with no cut in services. The council was moving towards a joint service through Optalis to take advantage of efficiencies through scale. The council had helped develop the Frimley Park Sustainability and Transformation Plan to prevent hospital admissions. The list of savings in adult services amounted to £1.3m, without one cut in service.
Councillor E Wilson commented that none of this was easy; tough choices had to be made. The council was doing the right thing in the right way to ensure a balanced budget,
Councillor Werner commented that at Overview and Scrutiny he had heard about a reduction in CCTV. He had been consulted by officers about the removal of CCTV in Pinkneys Green. He reminded Members that the CCTV had been introduced as part of a package of measures to deal with trouble on one estate in the ward. Removing it could bring back the trouble. In relation to highways he was aware that a number of councils had privatised their services in this area, but some had come back in-house a few years later. He cautioned that the proposal would cost money and affect services. The recent Nobel prize winner in Economics had undertaken an analysis of open-ended contracts and came to the conclusion that if you wanted good services to residents you kept them in house. He would not be able to support a privatisation paper. In relation to IT, Councillor Werner commented that external contract often ended up costing more money.
Councillor Dudley responded that in relation to CCTV each Member had been contacted to see if they would be interested in having it removed. The borough had more cameras on for more time than any other local authority in England. He had recently discussed the proposals with the Superintendent who had given support, confirming the proposed levels would give the level of oversight required by the police.
Councillor Hill stated that IT services were not being privatised. The data centre would be moved to a co-hosting centre to reduce costs. The proposals took into account that the structure of the council was changing.
Councillor Jones commented that with a reduction in central government funding and reductions in council tax over the last few years the savings were necessary. She had not been able to support previous budgets but recognised that given the budgets there was no option. She had concerns going forward as although the savings were necessary, she could not agree with some of the things providing them.
Councillor Brimacombe reminded Members of the Fundamental Service Review process that had been undertaken across the council. This process had lead to Directors bringing forward a refreshed transformation programme in March 2016. The process had a long gestation and difficult decisions had to be made; there was no easy place to go for savings. However it had the provenance of a strategy that had been thought out and published. Directors had been before the Audit and Performance Review Panel to explain their proposals.
Councillor Bicknell commented that you could do nothing; this administration was always doing something and adapting for the future. He referred to the contract with Veolia that meat that on average there were less than 10 missed bins in the borough. If other services went the same way, the council would have a fantastic set of contracts.
Councillor Rankin commented that he felt Councillor Werner’s comments were an unfair characterisation; the council was facing challenges from both government and demography. To overcome these it needed to think differently. The proposals did not represent privatisation, all sectors were being looked at, along with best practice elsewhere. He highlighted that details about the plans for Revenues and Benefits had gone to Cabinet and Overview and Scrutiny in October; for Highways in December and for Streetcare in September.
It was proposed by Councillor Rankin, seconded by Councillor McWilliams, and:
RESOLVED: That Councilnotes the report and:
i) Authorises Strategic Directors in agreement with Lead Members to develop the proposals and carry out implementation once Cabinet process had been completed.
ii) Authorises the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Head of Finance and Lead Member for Finance to make the necessary changes to the constitution to omit the Cabinet Participatory Budget Sub Committee and related references, following the meeting scheduled for 19 December 2016, and revise the Grants Panel Terms of Reference to enable this rationalisation to be implemented.
(47 Councillors voted in favour of the motion - Councillors Natasha Airey, Malcolm Alexander, Christine Bateson, Malcolm Beer, Phillip Bicknell, John Bowden, Paul Brimacombe, David Burbage, Stuart Carroll, Gerald Clark, John Collins, David Coppinger, Carwyn Cox, Judith Diment, Simon Dudley, David Evans, Dr Lillly Evans, Marius Gilmore, Jesse Grey, Geoff Hill, David Hilton, Charles Hollingsworth, Maureen Hunt, Mohammed Ilyas, Lynne Jones, Richard Kellaway, John Lenton, Paul Lion, Philip Love, Sayonara Luxton, Asghar Majeed, Ross McWilliams, Marion Mills, Gary Muir, Eileen Quick, Jack Rankin, Samantha Rayner, Hari Sharma, Julian Sharpe, Shamsul Shelim, Adam Smith, John Story, Lisa Targowska, Leo Walters, Derek Wilson, Ed Wilson and Lynda Yong. 1 Councillor voted against the motion – Councillor Simon Werner.)