FOI Request - Budget Savings - Radical Options
The Government continues to reduce central funding to local authorities, and this is increasingly creating financial pressures. All councils have used traditional approaches such as:
• reducing or even eliminating non-statutory Services
• cutting budgets
• cutting staff posts and headcount
• re-organising and restructuring the Services
• flattening the organisation and reducing senior manager posts
• adjusting Council Tax
• increasing discretionary fees & charges
• maximising opportunistic grant funding where available
All councils have already achieved significant amounts of savings through these sorts of 'business as usual' methods.
But it is now clear that severe reductions in central funding will continue in the medium to long term and could even continue up to 2019/20.
As the cuts go ever deeper the approaches listed above will not suffice and more RADICAL OPTIONS might need to be considered. These could include:
1. SELLING: external selling of in-house services and expertise (to other councils, &/or to other types of organisations inside/outside your borough) in order to boost income to the council
2. TRADING: setting up new Trading Accounts &/or significantly boosting the commercial profits from existing Trading Accounts
3. NEW ORGANISATIONS: setting up new organisations to maximise services &/or to access funding/new income. E.g.: Local Authority Trading Company, charity for the Borough, other charities, Social Enterprise, Community Interest Company (CIC), Limited Company, Provident & Industrial Society, ALMO, Leisure Trust, etc
4. PARTNERSHIPS/ CONTRACTS: setting up new Partnerships or Contracts with other organisations from any sector where they could help provide services &/or access to funding that the council is unable to provide
5. SHARED: jointly with other organisations, the sharing and funding of individual Managers, individual staff, teams of staff, support systems, depots/premises, vehicle fleets, procurement systems, or even entire Services
6. MERGED: merging whole groups of Services or Departments with one or more neighbouring councils, or even merging your entire council with a neighbouring council
7. CHANGED PROCUREMENT: e.g. outsourcing services that are currently in-house, or in-sourcing other services that are currently outsourced (e.g. bringing a Housing ALMO back in-house)
8. other non-traditional radical solutions
Many councils are thinking about a wide range of options in response to the continuing budget cuts. Often councils have set up a Work Party to explore such options.
My FOI questions are as follows.
Q1a. Does your council have a Working Party exploring RADICAL OPTIONS for responding to the continuing funding reductions? YES/NO
Q1b. If yes, please provide an email address for the person chairing that Working Party
Q2. If your Council is exploring any of the RADICAL OPTIONS listed above, please could you
• give a very brief outline description of each initiative and
• state how much savings &/or income you hope to achieve through each initiative in 2013/14
• Illustrative Example: 'Anytown Council is selling Legal advice services to 3 councils and also some local companies, £0 savings 2013/14 but new income 2013/14 £100,000 [estimate]. Anytown Council has also set up a Local Authority Trading Company (specialising in Highways Maintenance, Building Control, Pest Control, Building Cleaning) from which the Council estimates it may receive £500,000 in 2013/14 profits.'
Q3. If there are there any Council reports available that summarise these sorts of RADICAL OPTIONS, please send a copy (or web link to it).
NB: I am not asking for details of routine or 'business as usual' adjustments, such as increases to swimming charges, licence fees, etc. I am enquiring about big and different initiatives that will significantly change the way the council operates.
The council has established an Area Based Review committee which will consider what might be classed as radical options. The title indicates the perspective with which the group/committee will be looking at service provision in the area, i.e. based on demographic need.
There are no documents to provide at this stage; the committee will hold its first meeting on Wednesday April 17. The email address for contacting the chair at this stage will be firstname.lastname@example.org.
In strict FOI terms therefore, Q2 and Q3 are exempt under Section 17 (1b); information not held and Section 27; information intended for future publication; of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.