Friday 29 January 2016

'Prudent' Brent budget still has some risks of under delivery including Public Health and Youth Service

The Chief Finance Officer's Assessment of Brent Council's proposed budget asserts that it contains the right mixture of risk and prudence. However he highlights some areas where the risk of under-delivery is more signifcant.

The full list of cuts and savings can be found HERE

In the extract below in italics is the Chief Finance Officer's statement and below an extract from the savings document,  I was particularly concerned about the proposals on Public Health (PH3) following the removal of the ring-fence, especially after the report to the Cabinet at their last meeting LINK  We need to know exactly what is being cut and what the impact is as well as what needs should be met that may not have been met hithertoo. Brent Council only took on responsibility for the Public Health of Under 5s a few months ago.

There were warnings last year about the deliverability of the changes in the Youth Service and this remains an issue.

Soem of the other proposals seem vague at best.

I am sorry about the problems with the formatting. There are often problems transferring text from PDFs on to this blog.

a.     Proposal CYP3, which requires savings of £0.9m from a complex reorganisation of youth services

Reduce management and infrastructure costs in 2015/16, and establish a new delivery model by 2016. Savings of £100k include in 2015/16.

b.     Proposal R&G1,which requires a further reduction in TA costs of £0.5m in 2016/17 and a further £0.5m in 2017/18. This reflects the complex demographic and legislative pressures in this area

Savings of £1.3m were included for 2015/16 based on underspending in 2013/14 and reflecting the expectation that service demand would be less than anticipated in the original model . A  further £1.0m saving was included for 2016/17 and 2017/18
c.      R&G25f, which requires a surplus, over time, of £0.35m p.a. from the Lettings Agency, although none of this is budgeted for in 2016/17

BHP will be establishing a lettings agency in 2014. The business plan projects completed additional surpluses of £350k per annum bein generated from year five (2018/19). The saving represents increased income from the provision property and tenancy management services to private sector properties

d.     ACE2, which plans to reduce the council’s contribution to the London Boroughs Grant Committee by £0.34m in 2017/18, which cannot be achieved without securing a two-thirds majority in London Councils

Review of grant funding to London Councils
The Council cannot withdraw from, or unilaterally reduce its funding to, the Grants Programme. On the contrary, s.48(7) Local Government Act 1985 provides that a grants scheme such as this one, once agreed by the majority of the London borough councils, may be binding upon a dissenting London Borough council in the absence of its agreement. We have explored the legislative scope for this. Section 48 of the Local Government Act 1985, which established the London Councils grant scheme, stipulates that councils can only vary their contribution to the grant scheme with the agreement of at least two thirds of London Boroughs. The time available to implement any agreed change would significantly limit the level of savings achieved in 2015/2016. The Council could start conversations now with leaders of other councils with a view to introducing a reduction in funding to London Councils at the end of this cycle of projects i.e. April 2017.

e.     HR1 & L&P1, which collectively require further savings of £1.6m in the council’s legal services and human resources department.

HR1It is proposed to carry out a major reconfiguration of the HR service in 2015/16 saving £1.4m by 2016/17. This will result in the merging of some areas in order to reduce the number of managers required in the new structure. It is the intention to devolve responsibility for some existing activities undertaken by the Learning and Development team to HR Managers. Other activities will be accommodated by a new performance team with a broader remit which will include resourcing, workforce development, policy and projects. In addition it is proposed to cap the existing trade union facilties time allocation awarded to GMB and Unison to a maximium of 1 x PO1 post per trade union, to move the occupational health service inhouse saving £60k and reduce the learning and development budget by £67k. In year 2016/17 further reductions in staffing can be potentially achieved through shared service arrangements within payroll, pensions, HR management information and recruitment. Savings of £696k included in 2015/16.

L&P1 Different options of service delivery – outsourcing – private legal firm / buying from local authority that sells legal services and also London Wide work of setting up a shared service. Proposal to enter a shared service for legal. Savings of £400k have been brought forward from future years to 2016/17. Savings of £458k included in 2015/16.
f.      PH3, where savings of £1m against the public health grant are required
Agreed that efficiencies would be made within public health once the grant ceased to be ring fenced and further opportunities sought to use grant to deliver across Council functions

g.     R&G32,where  savings of £1.5m are required through implementation of 
the customer access strategy. 

Implementation of new customer access strategy with a specific aim to reduce the current costs of contact handling by migrating custome contact on line, improve the efficiencies of telephone handling arrangements and optimising use of shared data to reduce the nee for customers to have to contact multiple services with the same
information. There is a £1.5m of savings which will be achieved across the Council and held as a central saving in 2016/17

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