Derby City Council issued their 2016-19 Budget Consultation, yesterday. This makes proposals for how they will deliver the plan for the next 3 years and is open for public feedback by 5 January 2016. If residents have objections then they can tell the Council through this link.
This document is issued each year to maintain a 3 year plan. The last edition was confirmed in February 2015.
Focussing on 2016/17 – the Feb 2015 edition required savings of £30.5m in 2016/17 to deliver a total Directorate budget of £206.7m. The Dec 2015 consultation now only requires savings of £19m to get to a budget of £215.6m.
In summary, the Council needs to find £11.5m less savings than the previous plan, and will spend £9m more.
This is due to a reduction in the cost pressues (£2.7m), more funding, including Council Tax (£3.5m) and transfers from reserves (£5.3m).
The detailed plans for 2016/17 savings were only made public on 2 December 2015.
In broad terms the savings required in 2016/17 of £19m are to cover the reduction in the Central Government Revenue Support Grant, and cost pressures – but this was known about 12 months ago – so the plans should have been well developed and publically consulted on during that period.
£19m might sound like a lot of money – it represents 9% of the Councils Revenue Budget.
If this is broken down further:
£6.4m of it (33%) is saved through “Treasury Management” – this is changing the timing of when debts will be paid, and getting better arrangements for covering interest payments. This is good public financial management and is a very influential component.
£4.6m has been saved as the Tory Government deferred Phase 2 of the Care Act implementation. This money is no longer required to be spent – the Council have not withdrawn a service, it will go-live in a few years time.
£1.1m Improvements in the current IT contract (£0.8m), and removal of contingencies (£0.3m) for Job Evaluation appeals
The above £12.1m has been saved with no real impact on services, which leaves £6.9m..of the £19m required savings ( £6.9m only represents 3% of the Councils total Budget).
This £6.9m could be reduced further if they controlled inflationary pressures – they have forecast £3m for generalised “inflation”, plus £3.3m for the cost impacts of the Job Evaluation activity – which is also “inflation” – perhaps there is a double count, here?
There are a number of proposals in the document which look at transforming the way services are delivered, by being more inventive in the way functions are organised. This is normal in any organisation and technology and communications can facilitate this without impacting on front-line services. I’m sure if the Council engage with the people in a constructive and positive way then creative improvements can be achieved.
But, saving those last few million pounds is where it starts to become political, and using the residents of Derby as pawns for point-scoring is very questionable. As I have illustrated above, there are some large numbers in the plan which completely dwarf the impact of cutting housing support services (£400k), voluntary sector grants (£600k), school crossing patrols (£47k), switching off fountains (£63k) etc. These are done to remind people every day that this is solely down to Tory Government austerity, and nothing to do with local decision making. Incorrect! This is all to do with local policies.
I defy any organisation to manage a budget to within a 3% accuracy. Budgetting is about planning, it is not a “scientific equation” and to present it as such is disingenuous. The Council are playing on people’s lack of knowledge, fears, vulnerability and media-manipulation.
The majority of the proposed cuts which will really niggle people are in the “noise” level of budgeting and could be “funded” by changing an assumption on inflation, when loans can be paid, or other corporate level levers. These points should be challenged. I urge everyone who is concerned to write into the Council, protest, and make your voice heard!
Categories: Derby City Council