Bath & North East Somerset Council has published its Operational Plan for 2018-20 following on from a series of local budget briefings and discussions in late 2017.
The Operational Plan sets out the changes, opportunities and challenges facing the Council over the next two years as it seeks to re-shape itself in light of continuing national policy change, increases in demand for key services, rising costs and the need to become financially more self-sufficient as the grant from national Government reduces.
Whilst the Council faces some tough decisions and choices, it will also continue to invest in local services and the local area as it becomes a smaller, more focused organisation. Part of the changes already announced includes the reduction of 300 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in the Council’s 2,000 FTE workforce. Consultation on these changes, including a management restructure, will start within a few weeks and will be implemented over the first 6 months of the next financial year.
The Council is already in the process of saving £27million, and announced £15 million of savings in last year’s budget. However, we now have to save a further £16 million by 2020.
This means that the Council has to prioritise how to spend the public funding it has available to it.
Cllr Charles Gerrish (Conservative, Keynsham North) Cabinet Member for Finance and Efficiency, said: “Through innovation, increased use of technology, raising income and relentless efforts to become ever-more efficient; the impact of the savings we’ve already made to date has been relatively small for many people. However now we need to do even more.
“We now have to make some difficult decisions if the Council is to become more self-supporting in the future and is to continue to live within its means. We will continue to provide high quality services and invest in the future to help the Council to become self- sustainable. However we will also have to decide what to do less of, what others can do better and what to stop doing.
Despite these pressures the Council remains committed to putting residents first by supporting front line services as far as possible, protecting and caring for the most vulnerable and providing ways for everyone in the community to reach their full potential.
Cllr Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip), Leader of Council, said: “We are continuing to invest in those areas that will make us financially self-sustaining; continuing to strengthen the economy whilst protecting the most vulnerable, and supporting our unique built and natural environments.
“We are also continuing to invest to provide new opportunities for businesses to create jobs alongside new affordable housing and improvements to air quality and our transport infrastructure.
“One of the keys to helping the Council spend its limited funds on the things that really matter is in getting people involved early and often in solving challenges together. The Council is looking to forge a new relationship with its partners and local people to take a more proactive role in supporting their community. We also recognise that these proposals will have an impact on staff, so we will be listening and working closely with them to ensure that these changes are managed with the care and attention needed.”
The full details of the proposals are available on the Council’s website at: https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=553&MId=5083. However a brief summary of the key proposals include investing for the future to generate savings whilst improving or protecting the most vulnerable in our society.
We are investing in:
· Investing an additional £3 million to address the increased pressures in adult social care, and redesigning our adult care services to help older people to live independent, healthy lives
· Over £19 million in highways and transport improvements
· Investment of £8.7 million in new school buildings and primary school places
· Capital investment of £3 million into our modern libraries programme to bring together library and customer services in Bath, and Midsomer Norton and we are developing a network of community libraries
· Up to £5 million provisionally approved to invest in implementing new digital technology – to enable service transformation
· Investing £2 million in parks, including play equipment
· Continuing to provide to an effective homelessness prevention service
· New initiatives to reduce congestion to the East of Bath broadly equivalent to the benefits that a fourth park and ride would have delivered
· New housing through the Council’s property company to contribute to satisfying local housing need and generate commercial returns
· Completing the restructuring and redesigning our youth services as agreed in a previous budget.
We will be making savings and generating income through:
· Sharing services where we can and consolidating internal departments where this does not detrimentally affect front line services
· Undertaking a full management and service review which will result in the reduction of up to 300 FTE jobs
· Reducing our office buildings in line with reductions in staffing; continuing to make better use of space and generating commercial income.
· Reducing support services for schools in light of schools becoming academies and choosing to buy support services elsewhere
· Investment in property acquisitions to continue to diversify the commercial estate and generate income for the future
· Changes in how we support and subsidise public transport including new ways of working and new relationships with suppliers
· Implementing further efficiency measures across a range of departments from parks to social care provided it does not affect statutory functions and is in line with the aspiration to continue to protect the most vulnerable.
Pressing Government for change. We’re asking the Government directly – and through the LGA – to recognise the challenges we face and the solutions we believe would enable us to help ourselves. We have identified 20 key areas where a shift in approach or legislation could help us address pressures or mitigate additional future costs.