This is my extended response to the consultation as the online form and the premise of the cuts are too limiting. I did find there were more questions arising than answers given.Why are the cemetery privatisation plans not included along with the plans to demolish two homes to make way for a car park which is not needed. How many other initiatives are hidden away from this consultation. We need further options to generate revenue from a community energy company and a community bus service as a minimum.

Summary comments and observations

Firstly, beyond the ideological difficulties I have with the method of addressing the difference between funding and service costs there is a confluence between too much data and too little information. Going through things line by line it has raised more questions than answers to seek clarity in particular the nature of the source of cost savings.

There are a number of options detailed below which a variation of unused money and therefore reflects an organisation going through business as usual and this amounts to £203,380.

There are a couple of items which are about business as usual and you would expect of an organisation looking at costs £8,830

There are a number of items that are linked to generating a revenue source or increasing charges to increase revenue £175,040

There are also a couple of items included which reflect decisions already made £14,210

So before we look at the Service cuts, capitalisation, use of reserves and arbitrary we have narrowed the gap from £1.6 million to £1.2 million

A further £357,320 relates to items which appear arbitrary where a desired saving figure is specified rather than logic costed

It is proposing to move £336,790 to a capital budget although it is not clear if this includes the net amount for annual repayment of borrowing.

It is further proposed to sacrifice £166,180 of current reserves to fund some specific activities, this should not be considered as part of a recovery in my opinion

Finally, that leaves £908,250 in specified service cuts in one form or another.

There are a couple of caveats within this as CCTV features several time 1. To capitalise £10,000 of equipment (included in capitalisation above), 2. Secure a £18,250 contribution from Staffordshire Police, 3. Reduce the times of operation £11,800 and 4. Close the monitoring service completely to cut £107,040. These cannot be cumulative and if progressed would be a net combination of £40,050 OR £107,040.

There are also two significant service re-organisations to propose as shared services which are not specified nor give any detailed idea of cost cuts

I include in this the democratic suggestion of removing the election computer allowance of £10,930 but make alternative suggestions as to an increased saving from changing the structure of allowances and expenses as well as going paperless.

The following is a list of the job cuts clearly listed as losses in the consultation to £430,650 and each of these will have a direct impact on the efficiency of the services delivered

Senior Manager Environmental Health

Senior Manager Finance

Risk & Resilience Manager

Roles within the Internal Audit Function

Roles within Social Alarm and Contact Centre

Health & Safety Advice

Roles within Policy and Performance

Customer Service Assistant in Development Control

Environmental Enforcement Assistant

Roles within Countryside Team

Economic Development Management Hours reduction

Roles within Benefit Processing and Performance

 

Out of the balancing £329, 580 this includes floral displays, Christmas lights, Parish council contributions, supporting the Citizens Advice Bureau as well as other which may have job implications for example staffing of parks, social alarm installation and grass cutting frequency.

Detailed response

Capitalisation     £336,790

Title Finance Total Description Impact
Street Cleansing -Hired vehicles/Leasing Charges £95,540 A review of the Capital programme to identify presently uncommitted schemes and available resources has identified the potential to capitalise certain revenue expenditure. Capital resources are one -off and cannot be used to address a revenue deficit however the resources can be used to purchase outright vehicles and equipment rather than renting or leasing such items. The option will involve the utilisation of all the capital resources of the council and will require that match funding for the potential engineering training facility for the District and any other capital investment project may need to be put on hold pending the Mill Green Capital Receipt. The sustainability of this option and the ability to invest in the Councils assets will be dependent upon the council generating new capital resources other than via borrowing.
Wheelie Bins £135,090
Grounds Maintenance- Leasing Charges £96,160
CCTV £10,000

 

Moving hired/leased vehicles to a capitalised solution has wider implications than just the finance. How does this affect maintenance and replacement strategies and solutions.

Whilst this may move some immediate funds from revenue to capital what is the return on investment, what is the monthly/annual cost over what time period and the numbers quoted are they net of the cost of capital repayment

Are these options borrow to save solutions or use of reserves based upon existing affordability calculations and criteria.

Wheelie bin capitalisation – is this for the deployed bins at households within the district or a provision for future replacement items. Surely the former is a chattel mortgage and not really best practice.

With the grounds maintenance –  leasing charges this is not detailed sufficiently to provide a considered response

CCTV – should be considered with the three other CCTV options double counted

Use of reserves  £166,180

Title Finance Total Description Impact
IT  Replacement £69,840 Reduction in reserve for ICT replacement as forecast not required.
Corporate Initiatives £67,520 This budget is used to fund a range of issues where no budget exists e.g. apprentices, legal advice, document scanning, technical surveys. Budget to be removed and items funded from general reserves
Environmental Enforcement £13,820 Funding of environmental enforcement service from reserves
Rent Revaluations £15,000 Funding of additional cost from rent revaluations from reserves

 

This group looks like using reserves for revenue items in year and is not really part of “financial recovery”

The removal of IT replacement reserves is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

Corporate initiatives appears to be a contingency and in-year ideas budget what would this impact if removed from revenue to reserves. Is it that these will still be done but considered from depleting CCDC reserves

Not sure why environmental enforcement is included here when there are departmental budgets to deliver this service. The same could be said for rent revaluations

 

Optimisation       £402,220

Title Finance Total Description Impact
Off street parking – Environmental maintenance £9,190 Lower maintenance costs of car parks, partly in relation to winter gritting The reduction in budgets to reflect trends and commitments over the last three years will require additional unavoidable expenditure to be financed from working balances/contingencies. The reduction in available resources will reduce the flexibility of managers to respond to service demands
Travel & Subsistence Managing director £4,090 Underspent budget no longer required.
Subs To Outside Organisations £2,300 Underspent budget no longer required.
Civic Centre – Running Expenses £27,530 Reduced premises costs (includes utilities and public buildings)
Corporate Support – Running Expenses £4,250 Underspent budget no longer required.
DLC – Printing &Stationary £2,590 Lower Printing & Stationery – Development Control
Park Road properties – Running Expenses £5,330 Saving on the running costs of Council owned properties in Park Road, Cannock
Members NI/Super/Equipment £17,160 Reduction in the budgets to cover Elected Members’ National Insurance, Superannuation and equipment as no longer required at this level.
Discretionary Rate Relief share – WLCT £18,160 Income from rate relief received from Wigan leisure trust
Postages – Income £10,000 Income from external bodies for postages
Review the Social Alarm Installation Service £10,170 This option proposes to review and reduce the social alarm installation service by 18 hours per week in order to achieve savings, but to minimise the impact upon service users, which are primarily the elderly & more vulnerable of our community. A loss of 18 hours allocated to installing social alarms in our residents homes will impact upon the number of clients that can be seen, the number of alarms that can be installed/ supported, waiting times and consequently the level of income that can be achieved by this service.
Installers fit social alarms in clients homes providing personal alarm equipment and monitoring services when people feel unwell, are injured of feel concerned about their safety or wellbeing.
Reduction in Operational Costs of Parks and Open Spaces section £14,870 Grounds Maintenance Inspections/tree inspections maybe reduced or allocated a monthly limit. The reduction in operational budgets may delay replacement of equipment & reduce the number & frequency of certain inspections (e.g. tree inspections).
In-source Staffed Parks Contract. £16,000 This option proposes not to extend the contract for its managed parks service and deliver the service “in house” from 1st April 2017. There are a number of risks, dependencies, assumptions and barriers associated with this proposal.
The contract, which is currently operating on its second years’ extension covers: Cannock Park, Hednesford Park, Elmore Park, Ravenhill Park. Consequences: The managed parks will be managed differently in that there will be no permanent parks staff based on site, with the exception of Ravenhill Park during the summer, where because of the paddling pool, 2 staff will be on site at all times (May – August).
This option also proposes to restructure the internal operation to establish a mobile team of parks staff rather than have on site dedicated staff. The existing Park buildings & facilities will not be manned/used permanently.
All other Parks and Open Spaces are managed in-house by a number of mobile teams. This option is therefore to in-source the service using a mobile parks team at set times of the day. This will require a restructure of the service once it’s in-sourced to deliver savings There may be reputational damage caused by the changes to the way parks are managed.
Reduction of Contingency Budget in Parks & Open Spaces £63,000 N/A This budget is used to support additional works in the Staffed Park Contract and pay for any additional supplies and services in this contract. It does reduce the amount of ad-hoc work that can be done with external contractors and therefore will reduce the capacity to respond to one-off service requests from the public and elected members.
Reduce Expenditure on the maintenance of the Housing Register £2,700 A new IT System has been implemented which has enabled users to administer the registration of applicants onto the Choice Based Lettings Scheme in a more efficient way. There is a move to promote Self-Serve which further reduces Officer time spent on this activity. None
Out source Café Operation -Hednesford Park £8,000 n/a Currently achieved outsource to WLCT
Delete Building Control Marketing Budget £2,040 In a service which is subject to private and public sector competition maintaining market share and winning new business in order to support the non fee earning element of the work is essential. Marketing therefore plays an important part in the business, however, production of marketing materials etc. is taken from other Building Control budgets so this dedicated budget can be deleted with minimal impact on income generation. None.
Reduce Building Control Car Allowance budget £7,000 Following the set up of the Building Control shared service and further restructure 3 years ago it has become evident that the service consistently underspends the car allowances budget. The proposal is therefore to reduce this based on previous years outturn.
Delete 0.35 fte Private Sector Housing Technical Officer £11,060 Deletion of part of this post will not have any impact on objectives. Some of the duties of the post have already been redistributed thereby facilitating the reduction in hours.
Reduce staffing budget in Environmental Health £34,700 There is a potential impact on objectives from the deletion of these unallocated hours:
• Capacity to support businesses, particularly those which are new, or struggling to comply, will be reduced;
• Equally, capacity to provide appropriate response to compliance failures, or serious incidents which tend to place high demands on officer time, will also be reduced;
• The capacity to support public health related project work will be reduced;
• The deletion of these hours reduces the total EHO resource across the service further, resulting in a less flexible staff resource, which may compromise future, more flexible, models of service delivery;
• Deletion of these hours will create several permanent part-time EHO posts. Experience shows that as they become vacant these posts may be unattractive to many applicants.
Delete Vacant Trainee Communications & Marketing Officer post. £22,000 The Trainee Communications & Marketing Officer post has been vacant pending determination of service needs. Following a review and minor restructuring within the Partnerships and Comms team this post is no longer required. It is therefore proposed to be deleted. Its deletion will have minimal impact or adverse consequences for service delivery, but it does remove an opportunity for the Council to host a training post/ apprenticeship in the future.
Reduction in Level of Service for research & information £16,730 This proposal is to delete the vacant half post & rationalize the workload in future, focusing on production of key evidence documents & reducing the support for unplanned service requests. The proposed reduction will have an effect on the corporate support available for research & data analysis. This work is vital in forming the evidence base for the Council’s objectives & priorities – however, the reduced resource would remain focussed on this Corporate work. Additional support to specific services & projects will be impacted.
ICT  reduction in budget £34,320 The ICT  budget has been showing a consistent underspend of approximately £35,000 following the re-design/transformation of the service following shared service provision. Consequently this budget could be reduced.
Reduction in staffing hours in Democratic Services £7,090 There will be no impact from this proposal. These hours have been unallocated for some time and the team have demonstrated that they can cope with the workload without them.
Reduction in Consultation Budget £12,830 Reduction in running budget for consultation & engagement with the residents, businesses & communities of the District The reduction in budget will affect the possibilities & abilities for large scale public consultation & innovative engagement methods. This is a Corporate service, however, Consultation & Engagement design, support & advice is currently provided to services throughout the Council & its partners.
 Delete role of Typist  £9,200 The Housing Strategy Team currently has a 0.6 Typist Role within the Establishment.

The Current Head of Housing and Waste Management receives sufficient support from the PA’s and therefore it is proposed that this vacant post is deleted.

 Deletion of Typist Role will have little impact on Head of Service and other sections will have to absorb the functions that were undertaken by the Typist.
Review of Waste & Engineering Team £18,700 The role of Waste Development Officer has been vacant following the resignation of the post holder in August 2015. The post was deliberately kept vacant pending the outcome of the Waste Collection Contract and subsequent restructure. The day to day management of the Refuse Operatives was undertaken by the Waste Operations Supervisor who retired just prior to the TUPE transfer. This was taken into account along with the vacant Waste Development Officers post prior to the award of the contract in the profiling of a potential new client management team where the collection of the waste contract was outsourced.
Currently the Team does struggle to prioritise larger work projects against day to day priorities, even with losing the day to day management of the Waste Collection Contract.
Best practice normally requires 10 to 20% of the contract values to be spent on client contract management of which this Council falls well below. However, it is believed that the team can absorb the client management function without additional resource implications.
Demolition of Rugeley Squash Courts £6,210 Rugeley Squash Courts have been out of use for some years so have been liable for reduced business rates of £6,212.50 for the financial year 16/17. Plans are in place to demolish the building removing the rates liability. Demolition is due to be carried out in the third quarter 2016/17. Costs are to be met from the receipt for disposal of the Aelfgar site. None. Squash courts closed for a number of years.
Local Land Charges £5,000 Land Charges currently comprises two half time posts. One post is filled by casual staff.
The proposal is integrate the function within the Corporate Support Team with existing team members taking on additional responsibilities to provide the necessary resource to cover the land charges function.

 

In the main these do not seem to be any part of service transformation based on any community desired outcome analysis and I remain deeply sceptical the impacts of these have not been scrutinised to assess the effects on the community and the corporate priorities

Off street parking maintenance and in particular reducing winter gritting could result in an increase in slips, trips and falls. Would this increase the likelihood and frequency of accidents with our residents and the chance of claims for injury. What does the independent health and safety risk assessment conclude and these areas are not overly maintained currently.

MD travel is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

Subs to outside organisations is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

With the figure for civic centre running expenses is this facility services which are reduced and if so what is not going to be done in the future which is done now or is it Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

Corporate support is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

With DLC printing again is this services which will not be provided and if so what are they and what is the impact of not doing these or is it Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

Park running expenses again is this services which will not be provided and if so what are they and what is the impact of not doing these or is it Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

Members NI is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

The discretionary rate relief from WCLT this reads as a new income from the trust if that is the case why have we not been receiving this and what does it relate too

Postage income is this a new income source and if so from which external bodies and why have we not been receiving this in the past

Reducing the capacity to install social alarms will have a direct impact on the most vulnerable who are requesting these. From memory are these the services reduced/removed by the County Council picked up by CCDC a couple of years ago. What is the waiting list, how long does it take to install from the time of request and what will this increase too, what does an 18-hour time reduction mean in respect to the total number of hours per week for the current service, will there be a prioritisation for exceptional cases

The reduction in operating costs for parks and open spaces does not make sense as this looks like an arbitrary reducing the funds available rather than a costed solution for a known reduction in service provision.

In-source staffed parks the details of how this is planned to operate would be useful to determine if it is a viable solution. Having site based staff helps ensure that each of the parks are useful amenities and in a better condition than those which are not attended. What is the anticipated impact towards the increase in anti-social behaviour, litter, the feeling of intimidation, potential reduction in family use, damage to the installed equipment etc. With a reduction in supervision this will seriously impact on the enjoyment of our parks by residents. Can we clarify the staffing numbers before and afterwards as well as the anticipated hours per week at each location and an idea of the times this will cover.

A reduction in the parks contingency budget appears huge going from £83k to £20K how has this been spent in the past and the sorts of activities, repairs and improvements which will be lost in the future

Reduction in expenditure of the housing register is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this and looks like it should be undertaken through the Housing Revenue Account

Hednesford Park café operations have already happened how can this be included and is the £9K income or cost reduction

Delete building control marketing budget is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this. If we are not using this currently are we missing additional revenue opportunities and what is the market opportunity for commercialising this opportunity

Reduce building control car allowance is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

Delete private sector housing technical officer is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

Reduce the hours for staffing in Environmental health is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this. This does raise the question whether if we used the full allocation of resources and hours we could have been more proactive with Oak Tree farm!

Delete trainee comms role is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

Reduction of research and development is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

ICT reduction in budget is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

Reduction in democratic services staff hours is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

Reduction in consultation budget we need to engage more not less

Delete typist is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this

Waste & engineering team is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this. The waste collection contract is a large area of responsibility for CCDC and we should consider carefully how we achieve best value and not escalate routine matters through the management team which could be more appropriately addressed at this level. What is the missed opportunity cost

Demolition of Rugeley squash courts – this was going to be done anyway so not sure why it is included. Does the cost of demolition match the receipt from disposal of Aelfgar site and what is the timing of this

Local land charges what are the roles and tasks that the recipient staff will not be doing to accommodate this change

Management      £185,210

Title Finance Total Description Impact
Property Services Restructure £10,040 The Property Services Manager Post has been vacant for three years and it has not been possible to fill it. The two senior officers in the team have been covering the posts functions during this period, however, this has been with the support of an interim estates/valuer to assist. The major impact is in the input to broader objectives of the Council, such as the redevelopment of town centres where the experience and capacity of the PSM would be most valuable. Current day to day work can be managed within the resources of the team.
The proposal is to delete the PSM post and create a new estates/valuer post that will work to the Principal Estates Officer but provide support more broadly across the team. With the transfer of duties from the deleted post there will need to be a re-evaluation of the two senior posts. There would be no saving in 2017/18 as the PSM post budget would be used to establish a new post. In additional the PSM budget is currently used to secure consultancy support for the annual sample valuation of non-residential properties at cost in the last two years of £28k.
Delete Senior Manager Post £86,500 This proposal delivers a substantial part of the Environmental Health savings target. It will also reduce the effect on front line service delivery. The proposal minimises the impact of the required savings on front line services. The management responsibilities will need to be reallocated, or potentially dealt with as part of a shared service arrangement. As a consequence, there will be an overall reduction in senior management capacity.
Financial Management Restructure £31,170 The Financial Management Section has been subject to transformation and various restructures since shared services and there is potential to further streamline management. The proposal will reduce the capacity of the section and the provision to cover meetings etc. particularly during key pressure points including annual leave
The service will also be required to downsize subject to the proposed Leisure Partnership arrangements of Stafford Borough.
The savings represent CCDC 50% share of post
Deletion of Middle Management post in Governance £57,500 The Risk & Resilience Manager is due to retire in May 2017. Following the postholder’s retirement, it is proposed that the post will be deleted. As Risk & Resilience is a small team and one which can be split, it is proposed to transfer to 3 key service areas of Insurance, Civil Contingencies and Health & Safety to different service managers. Deletion of the Risk & Resilience Manager post will result in a loss of capacity and expertise. This is particularly an issue for Insurance; but the retirement is being planned for and a member of the team is undertaking a professional qualification in insurance to mitigate the loss of expertise. With the loss of a team member last year, the team has already been restructured and some capacity built in at a lower level. There is a risk in splitting the team that this capacity will be lost to some of the services

 

Property services manager – there is no saving until 2018/19 and how will the development work for the town centres materialise as an identified risk in particular with Mill Green and the need to ensure our town centres survive

Environmental health manager – how will removing this post affect the capability of the department to deliver the day to day operations and improve effectiveness in particular in light of Oak Tree Farm

Financial management role – There is already considerable pressure for financial management and control across a shared service are we happy we have the resilience to ensure all legislated deadlines can be met.

Risk and Resilience mgr role – There was a project management risk identified in the recent audits which was accepted against advice by the managing director. This role represents a loss of expertise and could impact on the efficient delivery of future change

Shared                  £169,000 plus 2 uncosted items

Title Finance Total Description Impact
Reduction in Internal Audit Provision £55,000 The Internal Audit Section currently comprises 5.8fte plus the Service Manager post. These posts carry out the work to deliver the Internal Audit function for Cannock Chase DC and Stafford BC as a Shared Service function. The reduction in the number of employees and the fte will impact on the amount of assurance that the Internal Audit function can provide to the Council and managers about the adequate operation of their governance arrangements. Some of this impact is reduced due to a number of posts that have already reduced their hours. The loss of a further full post will be partially offset by the impact of Leisure Outsourcing at Stafford BC which will see a reduced level of audit needed as some functions will cease to be the responsibility of the Council.
A comparison of other District Councils in Staffordshire has indicated that the size of the team is one of the largest in respect of fte per authority – including those in other shared services. At present, the team is 5.8fte (5 fte taking into account the reduced hours). Across the 8 Districts, the average team size is 2.1 fte per authority including Cannock Chase DC/Stafford BC and 1.9 fte excluding Cannock Chase DC and Stafford BC. Based on this there is scope to reduce the fte in the team.
This would give the team approximately 4.2 fte across the shared service (or 4.4 fte if the Principal post were deleted.) This will provide roughly 1.5 fte to review each authorities non-shared service functions and 1 fte to the Shared Service functions. This will bring the FTE in line with that for the other Staffordshire Districts
Stafford Borough Council (SBC) Led Shared Services £94,000 The 3 SBC led shared services of Legal, HR and Technology have been asked to deliver a total saving of £94,000 for CCDC. This will be achieved through a mixture of restructures and reductions in service levels. It is anticipated that the SBC led shared services will be expected to deliver back office savings for SBC as part of the Leisure outsourcing, which is due to commence late 2017. There is a risk that there will be insufficient capacity to support projects in the future and services may need to budget for the need to buy in additional support.
The saving will be delivered in full in 2018-19 and some may be delivered in late 2017-18. To ensure that CCDC meets its financial needs it is proposed to use the Shared Services reserves to make up any shortfall arising in 2017-18 up to a maximum of £94K.
Review Call handling operation between the Contact centre and Social Alarm Service. £20,000 The Contact Centre service operates Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm whereas the Social Alarm Service is a 24/7 service. Exploring the of merging the 2 services would require review of the current staffing levels whilst ensuring the current service level continues to be delivered. Significant HR implications
Merging the two services would improve resilience to the Social Alarms service in terms of staffing and support when the service experiences unplanned sickness absences.
A full review of both services relating to call flows, staffing levels and skill sets will be necessary to determine the feasibility of this proposal and to ensure that calls to either service were not compromised.
Street Cleansing – Internal Shared Service £0 There is a separate proposal being developed by the Head of Commissioning to potentially re-locate the Grounds Maintenance Team to Hawks Green Depot which will generate a saving of £19,500. This proposal is subject to the outcome of the Hawks Green Depot review which will be concluded towards the end of September 2016. The Depot Review may potentially result in the existing services operating from elsewhere due to financial efficiencies. However early indications are that there are no suitable premises within the District to re-locate to as a whole. If service delivery was factionalised it may be more costly to the Council overall.
There may be additional savings based around shared management and administration between street cleansing and grounds maintenance services.
Proposal to Share Service – Environmental Health Proposed additional services for Sharing arrangements – subject to business case
Proposal to Share Service – Development Control Proposed additional services for Sharing arrangements – subject to business case

 

Internal audit – do other councils and public bodies outsource this and at what annual cost. If we remove capacity then we need to upskill the members on the audit and governance committee to ensure appropriate confidence in the outcomes.

Stafford Borough Led Shared services – this is just an arbitrary figure without robust costing. When we refer to back office how many job cuts is this and how will the service provision be affected. It indicated a shared service reserves usage, what does this mean and why do specific service have their own reserves

Review of call handling – this is an arbitrary figure without robust costing. This sounds like a good idea regardless due to improving resilience of both services subject to training and retained expertise.

Street Cleaning – This is not a costed option at this time but would have concerns regarding the loss of local knowledge for service delivery and dilution of services resulting in a poor district environment

Environmental Health – This is not a costed option at this time but would have concerns regarding the loss of local knowledge for service delivery and dilution of services resulting in a poor district environment

Development Control – This is not a costed option at this time but would have concerns regarding the loss of local knowledge for service delivery and dilution of services resulting in a poor district environment

Democratic         £10,930

Title Finance Total Description Impact
Reduction in Members’ IT allowances £10,930 Every 4 years, each Elected Member is allocated £800 to purchase ICT equipment. It is proposed that the budget is deleted and Members would instead access ICT equipment at the Civic Centre.

 

This is the wrong solution we should move to an online electronic solution with tablets and access through the members portal to reduce the printing and photocopying costs. Access through computers at the civic centre would disadvantage members being responsive to community needs maybe a provision by application could be retained rather than an automatic provision. Further the number of responsibility payments could be reduced to reflect the decision profile of the District. Both of these options could be costed and presented as options.

Corporate           £37,690

Title Finance Total Description Impact
Align internal and external Health & Safety £20,670 It is proposed that that the internal service provision should be aligned with the service provided externally by Environmental Health. This would provide a more resilient H&S service for the Council. This will have an impact on the service that Environmental Health provide.  However, the impact on this team could be reduced by only losing part of the internal post, in which case the transfer to Environmental Health would achieve resilience for the H&S service, but with a reduced resource.
Restructure of Policy & Performance Team £17,020 Review & restructure of Policy & Performance team to be undertaken to rationalise section in line with the fundamental restructuring of the District Council as a whole. Review & re-establish the core rationale & principles of the team, along with the core products & services delivered & resources to do so. The  team currently provides the following areas of work:

Policy & strategic priority framework

Performance management & improvement

Research & information analysis

Consultation & engagement

Equality & diversity

All of these areas are central to the corporate planning & reporting process as it is currently delivered. The service also provides support to departments internally & the Council’s partners, along with the Council’s committees etc.

The review of the team’s functions may have an impact on any of these areas, dependent on the Council’s priorities in the future.

 

Align internal and external H&S – a strengthening of expertise sounds good but can we understand the impact and increased risk of incidence from reduced resource

Policy & performance team – can we understand the tasks not being undertaken under this option and how this will affect corporate strategy, will this limit understanding of future policy changes and prevent good planning for legislative change

External               £172,520

Title Finance Total Description Impact
Cannock Tenants and Residents Federation (CTRF), 27 Park Road, Cannock, lease arrangements. £7,000 There is an SLA between Housing and CT&RF that states only that the Council will provide office accommodation. 27 Park Road is in a prime location for small office accommodation and could easily be let if the existing tenant relocated. There are a number of advice and guidance services providing support to Cannock Chase residents.
There is an option to relocate DTRF to an existing Housing hub at Highfields, Smalley Close, Hednesford. The facility is underused, does not lend itself to redevelopment and would be an ideal location for CTRF.

It would then be possible to relet 27 Park Road on a commercial lease at a market rent with the tenant being responsible for the cost of all outgoings.

Christmas Illuminations £34,630 Each year the Council leads on the installation of Festive Illuminations in Cannock, Hednesford, Heath Hayes, Norton Canes, Chadsmoor, Bridgetown & Cannock Wood. The Christmas Illuminations switch on is a high profile event and very much valued by the traders. The Council are keen to increase footfall in the town centres and to promote local businesses.
A contribution of £6858 (3 Wards) is made to Rugeley Town Council and a contribution of £2,286 (1Ward) is made to Brereton & Raven Hill Parish Council. The decision to terminate the contract would result in negative publicity from the public and traders.
The Senior Technical Officer co-ordinates the installation and the switching on of the Christmas lights which is normally a high profile event. A concerted effort would need to be undertaken in order for the Town Centre Traders in Cannock and respective Parish / Town Councils to take over the responsibility for co-ordinating and installing (including storage of lights) the Christmas Illuminations.
The current Contract is in place for 6 years (3 + 3) and is due for review in 2017. There is no legal obligation on the Council to provide or arrange Christmas Illuminations.
Reduction/deletion of Local Council Tax Support Grant to Parish Councils £78,000 The Council has protected Parish and Town Councils from reductions in Government Support over recent years whereas many Councils have passed on reductions
The deletion of the overall grant would save £78,000
Reduction in Grant to Citizens Advice Bureau £52,890 This option proposes to reduce the level of grant paid to the Citizens Advice Bureau from 1st April 2017 from £136,890 to £84,000. This reduction proposes to bring the Council’s level of funding proportionately in line with a neighbouring authority. The CAB provide a general advice service across the district delivered through their offices in Cannock and Rugeley. This service includes gateway assessments, signposting and referral services, generalist appointments, specialist casework, legal advice, volunteering and training opportunities etc.
The Council currently has an Annual Service Level Agreement in place for 2016-17 for the delivery of a range of services and assistance to the residents of the District from their offices at Cannock and Rugeley. Clients are able to access one of the bureau’s offices every day of the week (Mon-Fri) 48 weeks of the year. They analyse client’s problems, advise and research information on their behalf, help them complete application forms and other documentation and negotiate with third parties on a range of issues such as debt, food banks etc.
This proposal does not affect the funding (£29,500) provided by Housing to the CAB for the following services: These services support a number of the Council’s services, particularly Revenues and Benefits, Housing and Homlessness and contribute to the Council’s Core objectives around better health outcomes, safer and cleaner environments, more and better housing and better jobs and skills.
Housing Options Projects £17,500
Housing Debt Prevention £12,000
Performance Information from the CAB indicates that Cannock Chase residents prefer to contact them face to face (69.87% 2015-16) compared to Stafford (40%). The CAB also report that Cannock residents enquiries are more complex and consequently more time consuming and resourceful to resolve.
2015-16 saw an increase of 20% in clients from the Cannock Chase area receiving face to face advice, over 2014-15 with welfare benefits and debt being the main topics of advice and assistance.
In 2015-16 the CAB helped 6,260 clients from Cannock compared to 4,670 from Stafford (34% more). In addition the number of client contacts made with or on behalf of clients in Cannock was 30,797 compared to 21,330 in Stafford (44% more).

 

Cannock Tenants and Residents – this sounds sensible and wonder why it has not already been done. How will this affect access to services

Christmas Illuminations – this is much prized by the community and will cause great reputation damage. A clearer understanding of the costs and what is involved here as I am not sure of the directly attributed costs and the real savings. This makes reference to a contract what is this and what does it achieve.

Parish Councils – parish councils should and do raise their own precept not sure why they need subsidising too. What is the anticipated impact

Citizens Advice Bureau – this should be protected to allow residents access to free independent advice across a wide range of subjects. This will adversely impact on the most vulnerable at their most vulnerable time

Service cuts        £689,460

Title Finance Total Description Impact
Continue to operate CCTV Service with a contribution from Staffordshire Police £18,250 This option proposes to request a financial contribution from the Police towards the Council run 24/7 CCTV service. No impact upon the service or its team.
The Police are the greatest user of the service & rely upon it to support crime reduction, make arrests & use footage collected as evidence to support court cases. Additional funds will help support budget to fund Casual and Part time team of operators and maintain the CCTV equipment.
Currently the Council funds the service 100% with no contributions from any partners/users. The manned CCTV service (excluding premises) currently costs the Council around £430 per day, 24/7, 365 days per year.
The CCDC CCTV service provides a 24/7 monitoring service for areas which have cameras within the district. The Council is seeking a contribution of around £50 per day (11.6%) from Staffordshire Police towards the operation of this service.
This service enables Staffordshire Police and at times other Police forces to review and collect footage which assists in crime reduction and evidence to support Court cases investigated by the police. If no funding contribution is received then other reductions will have to be made in order for the Council to achieve savings.
The Police are able to visit the service without appointment / forward notice to review footage and to obtain copies of footage which may then be used in court.
Monitoring the area and offering reviews is achievable by using monitoring and review equipment procured and maintained by CCDC.
Footage which is released to the Police is on disc which are supplied free of charge by CCDC.
CCDC meet all costs for this service currently.
A contribution by Staffordshire Police will help to ensure the service they are reliant upon continues to be available.
Deletion of Customer Services Assistant post in Development Control £18,620 Deletion of one full time post within the support team resource for development control. Work will have to be redistributed across remaining team members including professional officers. It is proposed that salary for 2 hours a day be retained in order to enhance the hours of a part time support team post.

Discussions have been held with Corporate Support Services to see how that team might assist the DC support team. If two hours are not retained this will be needed in order to maintain service to the team – other proposal exist for Support Services to take on additional work.

In itself this will have little impact but is on top of a number of reductions in the team over a considerable period the cumulative impact of which has been to increase workloads and impact overall performance. Planning application determination times may be lengthened and support to customers reduced. As the development industry has picked up post recession work load has increased however there are efficiencies and different ways of working that assist in managing workload.
Delete 1 X Environmental Enforcement Assistant post. £31,600 The three Environmental Enforcement Assistants are employed primarily to undertake low level enforcement work, patrols and issue Fixed Penalty Notices for dog fouling and littering and support the work of Pollution Control officers /Environmental Health Officers. The proposal deletes one of these posts that has recently become vacant. This will reduce the capacity to deliver certain activities, but Pollution Control Officers and EHOs on the team can be directed as required to cover any area of work that is prioritised. Deletion of this post will reduce capacity within the Environmental Protection Team, but Pollution Control Officers and EHOs on the team can be directed as required to cover any area of work that is prioritised.
Reduce the CCTV Service operating hours £11,800 This proposal reduces the amount of time operators are monitoring and manning the CCTV service, CCTV cameras will be left in fixed “Hotspot” positions and will continue to view and record information which will be accessible thereafter. There will be no manned CCTV operation within the District during these hours.
Charging for Pre-Application Advice for Major Applications £2,500 Pre-Application Advice is currently given but not charged for. Many Local Planning Authorities  do charge in order to cover costs. Advice sessions will usually be for major applications/ developments. There are concerns that charging may deter applicants from seeking pre-application advice. A policy will need to be developed to identify in what circumstances charging will apply. Although the best advice possible pre-application advice is given now charging will potentially require a higher level of service and may take more staff resource to support than under the current system and will need to include SCC as the highways authority.
Income figure assumes 5 sessions a year at £500 per session. Pre-application advice is considered to produce better planning outcomes and charging is common practice so customer response should not be overly negative.
Increase Cannock Market Hall fees £6,180 Cannock Market fees have not been increased in the last five years therefore a moderate increase is reasonable. The fees are currently £80 per week for most stall holders which gives seven day a week access and storage (three days a week trading). £6,300 per annum increase in fee income is based on 3% of the total forecast income of £210,000. Increasing rent could precipitate some traders ceasing although in comparison to other indoor markets the rents at Cannock are low. If new spaces came available and were let to new traders it could revitalise the market although general markets generally are in decline due to competition from discount retailers and internet shopping.
Increase in Trading Days – Cannock Indoor Market £35,000 Cannock Indoor Market currently operates on three days per week. The advice from consultants GVA in their analysis of the town centre and potential areas for development recognised the current contribution of the market and recommended that to reinforce the market as a key anchor it trade for more days per week. The rationale is that whilst town centre users may get used to the opening days, having the market closed more often than not decreases its contribution to the health and vitality of the town centre.

The addition of a further days trading can be accommodated within existing budget and staff resources.

There is a risk that traders may not wish to be open an additional day.

Additional days trading at the indoor market would increase its contribution to the economic vitality of Cannock town centre.
New entrance and additional stalls at Cannock Market Hall £16,000 Changing the use of vacant shop unit 1 in Market Hall Precinct to form a permanent entrance into Cannock Market Hall to improve visibility and access to the Market Hall. Proposal will make use of a vacant unit and will raise the profile of the market through making the entrance clearer and more inviting. Internal improvements will improve the trading environment, supporting traders and encourage their investment in displays and presentation. These improvements, alongside the other proposals for an increase in the number of days trading, will enhance the markets role as an anchor retail offer for the town centre, in turn supporting the health and vitality of the centre.
Opening up the current doorway and building 4 market stalls within the vacant shop unit has an estimated Capital cost of £25k. Income from the additional stalls would be expected to be in the region of £16k per annum.
Bus Stations – Increasing Revenue £4,000 Historically the Council has charged Bus Operators a departure charge for all services leaving the Councils two Bus Stations. The increase in charges has been in line with Fees & Charges annual increases. The largest Operator is Arriva and there is a risk that this increase will be passed onto bus users.
A benchmarking exercise was undertaken in 2004 the departure charge is currently 21.6p (net) per departure.
We currently collect around £40,000 per annum (not restricted to Arriva there are 3 to 4 Bus Operators) the proposal is to increase charges by a minimum of 10% which would generate an additional income of £4,000.
Closure of area Offices £44,000 The two area offices only provide revenues and benefits services, all other council services are accessed by way of a telephone from the reception desk to back-office service departments. Staffing reductions will be achieved by natural wastage, specifically by ending fixed term contracts..
Managing the face to face Revenues and Benefits service is becoming increasingly difficult for a number of reasons. Some issues will be experienced by customers with mobility issues and no access to telephone or internet. This may be of particular difficulty to the elderly, disabled and to pregnant women.
Rugeley Area Office This impact will be mitigated by the increased availability of home visits.
• The building is in a poor state and in its current state is not fit for purpose as an enquiry facility.
• Use of the building is very inefficient as we occupy only a very small proportion of a very large building. Additionally the service will investigate the feasibility of enhanced on-line facilities.
• A significant income or capital receipt could be achieved by the disposal of the building.
• Enquiries from Rugeley residents with genuine mobility problems, that cannot access other channels of communication can be accommodated by an increase in our visiting resource.
• The service would also take the opportunity to progress “channel shift” options by making more enquiries and services available on-line.
Hednesford Library
• Footfall at Hednesford is extremely low.
• Only a Benefit service exists there.
• Some issues exist regarding access to the building which is governed by the library who operate strict closing times.
• The library cannot guarantee our tenure beyond July 2017.
• Again, customers with mobility difficulties could be accommodated by way of home visits.
• The service would also take the opportunity to progress “channel shift” options by making more enquiries and services available on-line and by telephone.
Increase fees by 20% on Cemeteries/Football services. £33,200 This option proposes to increase fees & charges for the following services: Will impact on football clubs, who hire pitches for a whole season.
Grave spaces and rights: 20% The current cemetery fees charged are some of the lowest in Staffordshire and the increase brings the price up to the average price across the County.
Memorial rights: 20%
Football pitch hire: 20%
This increase is based on 2015-6 actual outturn
This increased income target assumes the same level of bookings etc. As prices increase bookings may fall  and therefore income may not be achieved.
Withdraw from Green Flag Application Process-Additional detail requested from Group on the 126/8/16. £1,330 This option proposes to withdraw from the Green Flag application process from 1st April 2017 (with the exception of Hednesford Park, which is a requirement of HLF funding). If this option is taken the figure excludes Hednesford Park which CCDC has to gain and retain a Green Flag for 5 years as part of the Terms & Conditions of the HLF Grant of £2.2M.There will be reputational risk that the Council is reducing the standards in Parks which is currently the subject of a House of Commons Public Enquiry.
This will effect Cannock Park, Elmore Park, Ravenhill Park and Stile Cope Cemetery.
Review of resources in the Countryside Team £26,040 This option proposes to review the level of resources within the Countryside Team with effect from May 2018. The Countryside Estate workers  respond to adhoc jobs such as vandalism to fences, seats, boardwalks etc. The reduction of the workforce by 1/3 will effect the operational performance and delivery of the service, reduce flexibility in terms of emergency works and cover for sickness and holidays. It will also reduce the capacity of drivers to two, due to the disability of existing staff members. If the proposal is taken then the Council will have to prioritise site maintenance and cease improvement projects to comply with designation status of the land e.g. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Inspection regimes will have to be adjusted from monthly to quarterly
Reduce post specification £7,500 This proposal is predicated on changing the existing contractor based on a two day delivery service on second class mail which should meet the vast majority of Council mailing needs. An embargo would be placed on first class mail unless in very exceptional circumstances. None – a new mail contract will give improved second class deliver times of two days. This will be monitored to assess exact delivery times
Planning application consultation £1,000 Reduction in neighbour consultation for planning applications to the minimum required under government guidance. Costs savings will result from reduced materials and postage. Reducing neighbour consultation on planning applications may be seen as reducing awareness of proposed development and the communities ability to influence the outcome of applications. Whilst neighbour consultation is still important other channels such as social media are increasingly the vehicle by which communities and individuals derive information.
Review role of Local Strategic Partnership in light of Council’s priorities, and reduce specification. £0 A substantial part of the work of the Partnership is around Community Safety which is a statutory duty. This attracts external funding with around £94,000 having been received from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in 2016/17. The Council must continue to discharge its duties for Community Safety by way of a Community Safety Partnership. This is currently embedded in the LSP/LPG structure.
The option exists to retrench and only fulfil the Community Safety statutory duty. This would reduce the overall number of meetings which would free up some Officer time. This would be spread across several Officers in several departments of the Council. Consequently it is not possible to identify a quantifiable and cashable saving at this point. If the LSP is reduced or ceases than adequate alternative arrangements will need to be available for meeting and communicating with partners.
Cessation of floral displays in Town centres and traffic islands including Hanging baskets £12,000 This option proposes to stop planting floral displays in town centres and traffic islands across the whole of the District. The Council plants out floral displays twice a year (June and October) and erects hanging baskets once in July.

This proposal would mean there would be no floral displays or hanging baskets. This would not affect the 4 staffed parks, cemeteries or housing areas which are funded by other budgets.

Well maintained green spaces can benefit communities in a variety of ways. High quality public environments can have a significant impact on the economic life of town centres, attracting investment, visitors and businesses. Badly maintained public space tends to worsen the sense of physical and social decline in an area. It is considered that poorly maintained open space fails to attract maximum use by communities.
Reduction of circa 30% in Grass Cutting frequencies on Council owned land and deletion of follow up operations £46,870 This option proposes to reduce the frequency of grass cutting on Council owned land across the District from 14 cuts per annum to 10 cuts per annum and to also cease any follow up tidy operations such as strimming around obstacles/lamp posts, Well maintained green spaces can benefit communities in a variety of ways. High quality public environments can have a significant impact on the economic life of town centres, attracting investment, visitors and businesses. Badly maintained public space tends to worsen the sense of physical and social decline in an area. It is proven that poorly maintained open space fails to attract maximum use by communities.
Close the CCTV Service. £107,040 This option proposes to cease the manned CCTV service entirely. There will be no manned CCTV operation within the District.
There is no legal obligation on the Council to provide this service.
The CCTV service provides a monitoring and review service for Cannock Chase District.
Increase Parking Charges £50,000 The Council owns a number of Pay and Display Car Parks and historically the charges have been favourable compared to adjoining Authorities. There is a risk that the car park users will find alternative sites to park – there are a number of alternative private car parks within the Town Centres which offer some or more competitive rates.
Parking Charges were last increased in 2012.
The Proposal is to increase charges by 10p per hour proportionately – this has the potential to generate up to  £50,000 additional income.
Reduction in Management Hours in Economic Development £22,530 Reduction in time from full time to three days per week.

Rationale is to reduce management overhead, however, this will also significantly reduce the professional officer capacity that the post brings to planning and economic development.

The proposal will have a significant impact on economic and environmental objectives both directly through a reduction in activity and indirectly through workload increase for other members of staff including the Head of Service.
Review current existing contract for leisure and cultural services to deliver savings £150,000 This option, for consideration, proposes to review the current contract with WLCT from the 1st April 2017 and reduce the fee paid  for the operation and management of the contract. Culture and Leisure are key services for the Council. They are high profile customer facing services used by many residents of the district.
The Council has entered into a contract with Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) now known as Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles to manage all of its Culture and Leisure Services and facilities. The opportunity to review the contract may achieve the required level of savings with minimal impact on the service.
The options to be considered include savings on business rates relief, more efficient ways of working at the Prince of Wales Theatre and with the Wellbeing Team, review planned maintenance requirements, and options to increase income generation.
The contract commenced on the 1st April 2012 and is initially for 10 years with the option to extend by 2 five year periods.
Reduction in Benefit Processing Performance £44,000 The council has a statutory duty to deal with claims for housing benefit and council tax reduction. Housing Benefit legislation states that Housing Benefit claims should be dealt with within 14 days or as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter. Many councils do not achieve this implied target. Staffing reductions will be achieved by natural wastage, specifically by ending fixed term contracts.
Our processing times for changes to circumstances are 9 days and are broadly average compared to other councils. A deterioration of performance on processing changes would also be detrimental to the Council’s financial position as a risk of loss of subsidy is introduced by an increase in overpayments of benefit. The council will be providing a slower service to the most vulnerable. In the event that vulnerable claimants may be at risk of eviction, these would be fast-tracked.
This could also increase workloads in other areas, such as
• Increased telephone and face to face contact from claimants
• Increased complaints
• Increased effort needed by Council Tax to manage unpaid accounts which are subject to undetermined application for reduction.
• Increased Council Tax arrears

 

Staffordshire Police contribution to CCTV – Local Authorities have a responsibility to law and order and it is not just the purview of the police. This is also a duplicate cut with elsewhere. This is an income stream but there is no comment if the police decline to contribute. Does this also receive some contribution from parish or town councils See also comments against other proposal

Customer Services assistant – This is a job cut and raises questions about resilience and workload in the future

Environmental Enforcement Assistant –  is Unused Money see summary at the end in respect to this. Need also to consider the dismantling of the service when this is combined with other cuts the resilience of the department appears compromised.

Reduce CCTV monitoring hours – also needs to be read in combination with the contribution by the police and the removal of service. Reducing the hours at vulnerable times could lead to increase in criminal behaviour without the ability to direct police activity or use of recording to support prosecutions. It would be difficult to implement this if a secured contribution from Staffordshire Police is forthcoming. What is the considered impact of increased crime from this proposal.

Pre-application advice – charging for the professional services around major applications is a good idea, can we define what is meant by “major” and will this exclude resident domestic primary residence applications

Increase market hall fees – is this 3% increase an anticipated annual increase, are there any contractual commitments to limit the application of this, is this something the traders and the shoppers want when combined with the other developments for the market

Increase trading days – the £35K increase what is this based upon, is this charging the traders on top of the 3% increase for the additional trading days if so will traders pay are their others to replace if not, how much did the consultants cost, are there any additional costs from the additional revenue and is this the net contribution

Market entrance – a positive development to freshen up a tired area of the town, where is the capital coming from and where is the business case for affordability the £16k income takes no account of the cost of capital and running costs

Bus stations – increasing the cost will definitely be passed on to the passenger and could affect the Arriva planning further cuts to less used services to maintain their profit. The second option of leasing the stations is not costed so cannot be commented upon. Can we explore running the local bus service by CCDC. Will the 10% increase be a one off or an annual increase, are there any contractual restrictions

Closure of area offices – the concern with this relates to being Cannock centric where we need to engage more locally, vulnerable people prefer face-to-face engagement locally, Rugeley could adopt the Hednesford model and Hednesford could promote the availability of service more widely known, how would the home visit service work as this seems something which has barriers to getting staff out

Increase charges for cemetery and football – what is the risk of fewer bookings and hence the increased revenue may not be achieved, what happens if people can’t afford cemetery fees, will this be at risk if CCDC pursue their preferred privatisation model for bereavement

Withdraw from Green flag – a no brainer really, you can still work to the standards without the need for validation

Countryside team – will affect the appearance and maintenance of the area to the detriment of the special designations or these are focused on when less public areas are neglected. The scope is not costed fully and really an aspirational number

Reduce postage specification – why is this not happening already

Planning application consultation – from what to what, we do not seem to do much more than the minimum so what are we not going to do

LSP – does not have any costs linked to it so not sure why it is included

Cessation of floral displays – these are often sponsored so have we factored in the loss of revenue, discarded flower beds are an attraction for ASB, this will also have an impact on visual attraction and vitality of the town. A variation could be considered where we have summer flowers only (reduce rather than remove)

Grass cutting frequencies – reduced by a third could be managed but the strimming and tidying must maintain. It is not clear how the cuts are achieved i.e. job losses, disposal costs, fuel etc

Close CCTV completely – this is a really bad idea of bad ideas, this is a service which requires investment not removal. With the use of modern technology this could be run in a smarter way to help discharge our responsibilities towards law and order not abdicate this to the police then remove their ability to gather evidence. This has to be the straw-man.

Increase parking charges – a 10p an hour increase to produce £50K seems very ambitious what is our current income level, this may lead to more illegal parking and on road enforcement is minimal at best, is this on top of the budget indicated £65K increase from 2016/17 to 2017/18. How is the multi storey being developed as this is a large missed opportunity

Hours reduced economic development – there is a concern that to achieve alternative sources of secure income we need to invest time in this area not reduce the capacity

WLCT – this is not costed just an aspirational instruction, it is not clear what will not be delivered

Benefit processing team – to reduce the capacity here will on the basis of we can do the job more badly does not seem reason enough, there is tremendous anxiety when these things are being processed and delays cause stress, it is not clear how the cuts will be achieved is it job losses from what to what, does this affect resilience, will we see an increase in bad debts due to slow processing for corrections

Total                     £2,170,000

Synopsis

To summarise the following document in three statements

  1. There is too much data and too little information to make informed comment
  2. This is not financial recovery it is a list of cuts
  3. We are being led to value flower beds and Christmas Lights rather than efficient services delivered by professional employed staff
  4. There are items which
  5. This represents an accountant answer to the question and reflects a lack of political leadership
  6. I have an ideological objection to the premise of cuts
  7. We have had plenty of time to design and transform rather than cut and slice

My Ideological Objection to the Principles of Funding for Local Authorities

Before entering in to views on the specified cuts and service removals I will take a few moments to explore the context of funding for Cannock Chase District Council and why we should not be at this place and addressing it in this manner.

Politics is about priorities. We have, in my opinion, sufficient money within our economy to address the proper funding of public services; it a political decision to choose to prioritise one service over another. In a global sense do we spend money on bombs and bullets or feeding and sheltering the resulting refugees. It is a political decision how to raise taxes and where to allocate resources. Over the last half century we have created a corporate welfare system which pays some individuals who are not enumerated from their employment to cover the basic costs of living. This could be a long essay on this subject alone but want to consider Local Authority funding in particular at this time.

An ideological experiment of austerity is moving the cost of providing services from national tax revenues to local tax revenues but this creates a flawed model which will fail to address our most basic shared facilities. I am not advocating a raise taxes and spend more solution to the provision of public services moreover I believe the correct amount of funding should be supplied to deliver the most efficient of services. We can all highlight examples of inefficient over spend. Again here there is an ideological debate which could cover this topic in some depth.

These national decisions are affecting local services in a manner which need not caused – it is a political choice. If we accept that we will receive less money to fund local services the premise of this will continue to accept cuts. We should rise up and say no more as elected representatives or as citizens.

So what about Cannock Chase

However, we are where we are and this is the main context to explore here. CCDC is funded by council tax, a central government revenue support grant (RSG), new homes bonus and a proportion of business rates. CCDC also collects and distributes all the other elements of business rates and council tax for other branches of public service or local government.

We have known since 2010 that the RSG is being removed by 2020 and that this would be replaced by retention of a greater proportion of the collected business rates. The maths of these do not add up fully and the RSG is being removed before the increase in business rates is coming through.

These changes lock our local authority money in to a growth only solution based on concreting over everything in a race to extract as much local money to provide local services. This is a political decision which removes democracy from our hands and places it in the hands of global corporations, a Dr Zeuss children’s story The Lorax predicts our future.

We have also known for a decade that it is likely that Rugeley Power Station will close at some point. Due to damage to our climate coal fired power stations would be phased out and the global business which owns the power station decided four years ago the changing to biomass was not an option.

So even setting aside the ideological disagreement we have known for many years that we would head to this point of crisis. So why are we addressing this predictable gap at the last minute. There are a huge number of decisions being made in this cuts bible without scrutiny of decision making, without an in-depth understanding of any unintended consequences and without a strategy of what public services would look like for the generation ahead. We cannot cut our way to success. The answer is a failure of political leadership in our communities.

We have had the time to develop a far ranging community conversation about the future priorities for public service provision. A representative democracy does not preclude public engagement indeed to have validity it should be centred upon this. We should have a vision of what outcomes we want to deliver and how we design services and enable communities to deliver this using our shared resources.

If this is done correctly with appropriate and professional scrutiny ahead of decision-making we could deliver a connected community provision sustained against the financial constraints imposed by central government.

It is a failure of local political leadership which has driven us to a limited consultation flawed by the premise of salami slicing services rather than a strategic shift to transform service delivery against known, agreed and desired outcomes.

Now I understand council finances a little more since my election in May it is clear there is no reason we cannot invest in our communities to address some of the areas of common concern or to secure incomes outside of those which lock us it to concrete over the Chase to keep up with the increased costs of growth.

These are not easy questions to answer but they deserve the respect of their complexity.

We could generate income from a community, renewable energy company, we could secure public transport for the public by a modern community owned bus fleet

Each of these and many more can secure our future against a community decision framework to agree our priorities. It is the right time to invest and that includes borrowing a better rates than can be achieved by borrowing by proxy through private company loans, uplifted by profits and passed on to us, the taxpayer, to pay.

This is also an accountants response to the problem rather than a leadership solution

Provide clarity of the position in respect to Business Rates

There is also the question as to whether we should have arrived at this position so acutely with questions as to the timing of when we knew the Power Station was very likely to close when there was potentially a window of opportunity which was missed between this time and the actual closure announcement to start the ball rolling for application for gap funding from central government. Finally, we need to understand more fully the position relating to the tax avoidance activities of large corporations and the ability of the Council to mitigate and fight against these through the provisions in legislation

Industrial premises are given a six-month rate free period once premises become unoccupied. The loss of revenue the council are anticipating is far in excess of what the law permits.

There are, of course, a number of loopholes. But the council shouldn’t be accepting that the owners will use those loopholes and get away with it.

The Questions which need answering are.

  1. Do the Council accept that the owners of the power station have a legal duty to pay full business rates on empty industrial premises after six months?
  2. Have the owners applied for any reliefs from Empty Premises non-domestic rates and if so has any relief been granted? Was that relief mandatory or discretionary?
  3. Has the council taken any steps to divide the hereditaments so that any tenant occupying part of the premises does not occupy the whole of the premises which could result in a lower business rates bill?
  4. Has the council consulted with its legal services to ensure any non-domestic bill is paid in full?