At a Library briefing this morning, Claire Davenport, Director of Leisure and Culture for Derby City Council provided answers to questions from Derby News that undermined the urgency and timing of the publicised savings for the Library strategy. She has put into doubt the need for this Review to achieve the Council’s budget!
The Council Cabinet papers published on July 12th 2017 stated in Appx 1 ( page 37):
“The Council‟s financial position remains challenging. The MTFP (Medium Term Financial Plan aka Budget) requires that £673k be saved from Libraries budgets, split between 2017/18 (£336k) and 2018/19 (£337k). However £25k of this saving has been achieved early so the saving for 2017/18 now stands at £311k. Option B Plus has been designed to deliver the required savings”
As we are currently in 2017/18, and none of the actions to deliver the savings, which are achieved primarily through the redundancy of the 40+ Library staff, and full implementation of the Community managed Libraries (CML), have barely started, then the savings for 2017/18 will NOT happen.
I asked a question of the representative, at the briefing, from Locality, who is advising Derby City Council on this programme:
“…based on your experience, how long would it take a CML from, expressing an initial interest, to getting “up and running”
– her answer, about 3 years.
I clarified, and asked – “Not 6 months?”. She was clear in her answer, that this was totally unrealistic.
Derby City Council’s plan assumes 6 months.
Ms Davenport questioned my assumption of 6 months. I explained that, in order for the Council to deliver its financial plan, all paid staff would have to be made redundant by 31 March 2018, and the CMLs implemented to achieve the other part of the saving. She consistently disagreed with this assertion, despite this being fully documented ( see quote above). Although her answer was not definitive, no end date was given, or indication of how long the Council expected the delay to be – she expressed no urgency.
The other important point arose around the legal constitution of the CML, the need for fund-raising, and the amount of grant received from the Council….and the time taken.
- The Information packs do not contain all cost data.
- To complete a business plan, the CML will need to know its cost data, and the grant required from the Council ( not declared yet, pending receipt of all bids)
- This may / may not require external funding to support operational costs from day 1…most likely it will do.
- To get substantial 3rd party funding, then the CML will need to be constituted as a charity, or Community Interest Company (CIC). The Council has set aside £90k to support much of these initial costs ( not in the financial plan)
- It’s unlikely that a CML will start the legal process until it knows that it has been awarded the contract – Jan 2018.
- It can’t start “trading” until it has been constituted and it has secured funding to cover operational costs – this could take a year.
On the basis of this, and Ms Davenport’s previous comments then it is unlikely that any savings will be achieved in 2018/19 either.
Ms Davenport made a very important point – there is no urgency in this programme – she contradicted my assertion that there was. It would seem that the Council’s budget can withstand a delay of 12 months, with none of the savings being delivered in either 2017/18 or 2018/19.
And yet this is being driven by cuts in Central Government funding, now? How are they “balancing the books”?
- urgent in which case everything must happen by 31 March 2018, or
- it’s not urgent, suggesting that the budget pressures are not as rigid as we have been led to believe, implying that this is a political choice
– it can’t be both.
The Council’s rhetoric on this matter has now been blown apart! When will the Council finally face reality on this doomed project?