Derby City Council

Conservative administration “reveals its hand” in first detailed Budget update – Care required!

Since May 2018, there have been a number of reports presented to the Cabinet about gaps in the Council budget:

The Chief Finance Officer has been working to improve this situation  – to minimise any overspend in the current year, and to ensure that a legally balanced budget can be set for next year (2019/20). Thus far there has been limited information on how this will be achieved.

A detailed report will be presented at Cabinet next week, which shows how the “black hole” in 2019/20 has been reduced from £12m down to £5.5m. This still leaves a sizeable problem to be resolved over the next few months. The proposals identify the loss of 128 staff, however a significant proportion (85 – 66%) relating to Council run care homes, and Adult Day centres had already been identified in the 2017/18 budget…but have not yet been delivered.

There are many areas from which savings will be sought, these are:

  1. Refocus the provision of Livewell and reduction in the controllable public health grant
    • Council’s lifestyle, behaviour change and public health prevention offer. Current funding £1m – to be reduced by £0.4m
  2. Remodelling the remaining Council owned care homes and closure of the three remaining in house day centres.
    • This is the conclusion of the plan that was included in the 2017/18 budget.
    • “The proposal would be to retain Arboretum House for the primary use of providing ‘step-down’ and assessment beds for people leaving the Royal Derby Hospital, retaining Perth House for the same purpose and relocating Bonsal View. Due to the scale of capital work required at Warwick House it is proposed that this facility is decommissioned over time and declared as a surplus asset.”
    • Proposed future for the Council’s remaining Care Homes and Day Centres
  3. Review of younger adults care packages
    • Proposal is to review 300 Adult care packages to consider on an asset based approach to meeting eligible needs
  4. Re-prioritising statutory work in adult social care
    • This proposal is to stop using third party/agency ‘Best Interest Assessors’ to help people who cannot consent to their care arrangements in a care home or
      hospital and only use our own in-house assessors.
  5. Efficiencies in workforce learning and development
    • The proposal is to save £100k by rationalising the structure of the Adult Workforce Learning service. There is a likely reduction in FTE staffing of 2.6 posts.
  6. Carelink
    • Carelink is the Council’s 24/7 response and community alarm service supporting over 3000 customers who pay to receive the service
    • A review following an external audit will identify savings principally from indicative salary grading changes.
  7. Re-modelling the universal offer to carers
    • The proposal to be consulted upon is around reducing and re-defining the universal offer for carers to cover the statutory requirements only. This will impact on existing commissioned support for carers as if agreed; anything that is beyond the statutory minimum requirements will no longer be funded.
  8. Removal of base budget for Troubled Families with corresponding funding ending in 2019/20
    • The funding for this, from the Department of Education, ends in 2019/20. If so, then the programme will stop
  9. Remodelling of the Connexions Service
    • A Council run service for young people not in education or training (NEET)
    • The service delivery model has not been reviewed since 2011 and it is timely to review form and function given the refreshed 2018 strategy. The review is proposing a reduction
      of 3 fte posts from an establishment of 19 fte.
  10. Social Impact Bonds
    • Social Impact Bonds are an alternative form of social investment, increasingly used in the public sector to fund service improvements, involving local authorities, investors
      and providers. The Social Impact Bonds Strategy was agreed by Cabinet on 12 September 2018.
    • The Council , in conjunction with Nottingham City, and County Councils has been developing a social impact bond approach for children in care and on the edge of coming into care – an area that has one of the most significant impacts on council budgets. These efficiencies will be delivered by reducing the cost of care to the Council.
  11. Redefining the local authority role in school improvement
    • This is driven by the fact that there are more academies across the City resulting in the need for a different approach.
  12. Youth Offending Service (YOS) restructure
    • There has been a 23% reduction in open cases since 2015/16 with overall practitioner caseloads reducing in the same period
    • The proposals are to make a safe and reasonable reduction to the front line service.
  13. Remodelling of the service model for the provider of fostering and residential provision for children in care
    • Due to the lack of Council recruited foster carers, more expensive agency carers have to be employed. The proposal is to consider a better way to recruit foster carers and save on agency costs
    • Due to a change in the complexity of needs of children in care homes, the current stock of houses is to be re-configured to provide a better aligned service.
    •  The proposed reconfiguration of the children’s homes will realise staffing savings of £200,000 principally through the closure of one home and utilising
      the use of an alternative building. The plans for this were considered and approved by Council Cabinet at their meeting on 10 October 2018.
  14. Management review
    • Management efficiencies will be achieved by rationalisation of senior manager arrangements across People Services.
  15. Other savings:
    • Digital services base budget efficiency review
      • Microsoft spend efficiencies – £350k
      • Staffing Efficiencies – £70k
      • Modernised backup arrangements in digital services – £40k
      • Contract and licence management in digital services -£40k
    • Undertaking a full review of the Council’s single person discount database and then to ensure that all new awards for a three year period are reviewed using the same processes and techniques. This will require approval of an invest to save amount, valued at £152k which will be funded. Saving £558k
    • Removal of free staff and councillor car parking and implementing charges for permits. £175k
    • Corporate costs – not specified £181k
    • Communities and Place – not specified £465k
    • Libraries – £336k

Comment

These are not all new ideas. Some of the most significant ones relating to the Care Homes, and Adult Day Centres are old initiatives that didn’t deliver in earlier years. Some of the ideas seem to be genuine efficiencies through providing the service in a way that is more current, and reflective of modern practices, or demographics.

This plan does assume that the initial £336k for the Libraries strategy will deliver this year (2018/19) – based on current performance this is most unlikely.

However, there are a few proposals which, if not carefully considered, could create damaging unintended consequences.

  • the support for Carers – a group of people who silently ease what could be a massive burden on the Council and the NHS. A small saving could trigger significant costs elsewhere in the system
  • removing the Troubled Family Service. Although dependent on Central Government funding, this support for families in different forms of crisis can maintain a cohesion that avoids anti-social behaviour, and  impacts on the welfare system.
  • review of adult care packages – it is appropriate that people who have the means to support themselves should do so. However, there are too many examples of over-zealous social workers who have left vulnerable people in a poor situation as a result of “Council cuts”

Cllr Matthew Holmes has stated:

We always felt Labour’s approach to governance and budget setting had significant flaws but the position we inherited has been significantly more challenging than we ever imagined it would be.

From day one of our administration very little has been straight forward and a multitude of issues and projects have required us to effectively fire fight and then set about the complex process of resolving them.

Also, the statements made by Labour in regard to them leaving us a balanced budget weren’t based on the reality we are now dealing with.

It has also led to an ongoing re-assessment of the medium-term position and is now presenting us the task of working up very significant savings proposals.

60% of the Council’s budget is spent on Adult Social Care and Children’s Services. A significant proportion of this will be statutory. It is unlikely that any of this can be materially influenced politically. The “black hole” that has appeared in the Council’s near term budget results from overspends in these areas…conflated by over-ambitious budget setting by Officers. Whether Officers were “coerced” by the previous Leadership to be optimistic about net growth in these services, to achieve a balanced budget, is a moot point. The answer is based on an individual’s perspective.

The, relatively new, Chief Finance Officer gave a coded response to this in a previous Executive Scrutiny Board meeting:

“I would suggest, me coming in, afresh, looking at what we’ve got in front of us….I’m presenting the numbers in a different way – my way, rather than a “previous way”

Cllr Holmes finished his statement by saying:

I want the public to know that the road that we are about to travel is not going to be easy as we work to provide a solid foundation for the Council and the City in the long term.

The reality is that many of the decisions that we are going to make will not be easy, but it’s important to say that we will be doing so in an open and transparent manner with meaningful consultation with the residents of the city.

Despite this extremely challenging situation, it’s also very important to state that we remain absolutely committed to achieving and delivering on our manifesto commitments.

We hope that the people of Derby allow us the time we need to do that.

The key phrases are “meaningful consultation” and “open and transparent manner”.  There have been a few wobbles thus far!

These commitments need to be made to work throughout the Council’s structure ( not just amongst Councillors seeking re-election)  to ensure that the “unintended consequences” of savings proposals are avoided.

 

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