In a previous article I questioned whether the Council had full knowledge of the facts in support of their decision to cut Voluntary, Community and Faith (VCF) Grants. The first of my 3 questions was raised by Cllr Graves in the Full Council meeting on Feb 3rd. Cllr Repton’s response was very vague, other than the usual general rhetoric about budget cuts. Budget cuts is not an argument for making a poor decision. Although my article had been sent to all Councillors, Cllr Repton had overlooked reading it, but offered to respond directly to me – which he has done. This is detailed below.
What is the consequential financial budgetary impact on Social Services, Health services, and other parts of the Council by removing this support. Does the Council know that it will be less than £577k? If not, then it becomes a poor financial decision.
Cllr Repton’s Response, in grey:
It is not possible to accurately or with any certainty quantify the consequential financial impact on the Council. We estimate that 15-20% of people using the day activity services may have some eligible social care needs, some of which are already known to us. Without specific care assessments it would be idle speculation to put a figure on this, but if our estimate is broadly right we expect the cost to be less than the figure you quote.
Consultations and reviews of VCF grants have been on-going for over 12 months. The last formal report was at the Council Cabinet meeting of 18th March 2015. One of the themes examined was called ” Prevention and Early Intervention”. Key findings in that paper stated:
“There was a great deal of support for the Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector to do more to support prevention and early intervention…..There were also comments that without prevention, statutory services will not be able to cope”
Disappointingly, the Council have clearly not made any real attempt to quantify the consequences, despite the earlier report highlighting the serious impact on statutory services. The report goes on to say:
“Some voluntary sector groups are already picking up some services that were provided by statutory services but have now been cut.”
Which clearly states that by the removal of VCF grants from some organisations, they will be cutting statutory services – which is illegal!
The response to Question 1 continues:
May I also point out to you that decisions are also time bound i.e. we have a legal duty to balance the budget now, and we have already had to use just over £10m of reserves over the next three years to do that, the limit of our section 151 officers judgement on financial probity. As far as we are concerned there were no better alternatives savings available to this particular saving in order to balance the budget for 2016/17.
In 2017/18, and 2018/19 – there are a further £26m of savings including
- £350k on reducing grass cutting, weeding etc
- £146k on maintenance of Bus station, bus stops and shelters
- £32k decommissioning of water features
- £542 reduction in marketing activity
- £160k Merging Tourist Office, and Derby Live Box office, ending Osnabruck envoy arrangements
All of which are considered to be higher priority than the VCF grants (£577k) as they are being made in future years! Perhaps the Council should re-prioritise the savings to preserve services that really matter to residents? To balance the budget, the Council could borrow the money – which is entirely legal – it doesn’t have to come from reserves.
How much additional funding will be lost to the City by this action?
Cllr Repton’s Response in grey:
Neither we nor you can say with any certainty what other funding will be lost to the city. Organisations have said they receive over £1m in funding from other sources. There are no hard facts which lead me to conclude that this other funding will be lost as a direct result of our decision. Such funding invariably is time limited and would come to a natural end.
Once again, Cllr Repton has looked at this very narrowly. I don’t expect that any existing funding would necessarily be withdrawn. But how much future income may be lost, by not having the support of the local Council. I’m not clear why, over the last 12 months, Council officers could not have discussed the funding arrangements with each organisation and established a certain answer to this question. Why are there no hard facts – this is a major decision…which should only be made with a proper, professional, financial analysis.
How can the Council guarantee that the people who benefit from these services, for whom they owe a statutory responsibility , will not be disadvantaged as a result of this action?
Cllr Repton’s Response in grey:
We shall discharge our duty to any and every person with statutory needs, they shall have their needs met through the mainstream adult social care budget should they be assessed as having eligible needs.
It has already been referenced in Question 1 that the Council’s own report recognises that some Voluntary groups provide statutory services, and that prevention can avoid an unmanageable burden on statutory services. Cllr Repton’s response has the air of “travelling hopefully”. I would also add that the Council’s statutory responsibilities are not confined to just Adult Social Care.
Cllr Repton’s response confirms that the decision to cut all VCF grants ( no part cut was considered) was done in the absence of any facts. It was done, despite
- the guidance of officers in 2015 that it would impact on statutory services.
- lower priority funds not being cut until later years, and stating in Cabinet that this was “the last resort” when clearly options do actually exist!
- other financing options being available.
The fact that there is no coherent, factual, well-argued analysis ( including critiques of options) to support the decision and that the only justification is “budget cuts” demonstrates and proves that this Council is behaving irresponsibly. It is a reckless decision, based on no facts, and with no consideration or understanding of the consequences.